The Detroit Lions thought they had a star in the making in cornerback Jeff Okudah, but injury concerns have snagged his development the last few seasons. Now, Okudah is simply trying to forge a comeback story.
Come 2022, the time for that to stop is now according to Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Okudah has had a strong rebound this offseason from injury and has worked hard to put himself in physical shape to make an impact. That’s something Aaron Glenn is very thankful for.
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Glenn joined ESPN’s Adam Schefter on The Adam Schefter Podcast to set the table for the 2022 season, and a major theme from him was his appreciation for Okudah as a player and what he can be for the team moving forward.
“Jeff Okudah, listen, this guy had a really, really good training camp last year. We were with him (last) year, so that’s what we know about Jeff. Obviously, we know when he came out of the draft, we thought he was a pretty good player. We have to get this injury bug off him so he can end up playing for us so we can see exactly what we got. We think we know what we got, but we have to be able to see it,” Glenn said.
In terms of what Okudah has done to prepare himself, Glenn is also appreciative of the effort, and believes it can lead to some good things on the field.
“I give this player credit for busting his a** this offseason so he can get exactly where he needs to get so he can end up playing for us,” Glenn said succinctly. “I am looking forward to him having a really good camp just like he did last year. I’m looking forward to him being on the field for 17 games this year, going to the playoffs.”
While it might seem like a bold call to some, Glenn told Schefter he predicts Okudah will make it happen given the daily challenges he receives.
“That is exactly the expectation for that player. Exactly the expectations. He knows that. We challenge him to that. The thing about him, he’s going to accept that challenge,” he said.
If Okudah did indeed play a whole season for the Lions, that would be a significant benefit to the team and their hopes of making a postseason push. The Lions have long believed Okudah to be one of the top young corners in the game, but seeing has not always been believing due mostly to the injuries he has suffered.
The time could be now as it relates to turning that corner in a bigger way after an offseason that has left everyone impressed.
Glenn Sets Expectation for Lions’ Defense
In terms of what he wants to see from Detroit this year on defense, Glenn was also an open book when chatting with Schefter. As he explained, toughness and effort is going to be a hallmark for the team, especially seeing as that was what they showed in 2021. As Glenn said, those factors are non-negotiable to playing on the defensive side of things for the Lions.
“Here’s the one thing you’re going to see that showed up last year, our guars are going to play hard. We call it play on maximum effort. We say if you don’t play that way, you’re a traitor to this defense,” Glenn explained.
Additionally, Glenn wants to see the team be violent on the field this coming season within the confines of the rules in terms of attacking the ballcarrier to force turnovers.
“You’re going to see us attack the football. This game is all about the ball. How do you attack the football? In every aspect we are after it. I don’t care if you’re throwing it, I don’t care if you’re running with it, I don’t care if the quarterback has it. We are after the football. We are going to be a violent, violent disruptive team,” Glenn said.
Given the team forced just 11 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries last year and had 30 sacks, attacking the ball better is significant. Hearing that Glenn has made that a focus for this season is good news for the team.
Glenn Praises Aidan Hutchinson’s Ability
It wasn’t just Okudah that Glenn seems very excited about. The coordinator was asked about lineman Aidan Hutchinson and his adjustment to the league. While Glenn admitted he is not putting Hutchinson on a pedestal for what he has done thus far, he did say that he believes the Lions may have gotten a bit more than they bargained for with the pass rusher.
“We’re not putting him in the Hall of Fame, but the fact of the matter is, I think we got exactly who we thought we were going to get, and maybe a little bit more,” Glenn told Schefter.
The reason for this? Hutchinson can do plenty of different things on the field.
“We knew he was a really good player coming out of Michigan, everybody saw that. But man, he is a way better athlete than we probably all gave him credit for. His ability to move around on the defensive line is pretty outstanding. We played him inside, we played him outside. We saw this player be able to operate in space, we saw him be able to operate on the edge. We want to be able to utilize that. He is a very, very smart player,” he said.
With Hutchinson and Okudah playing starring roles, the hope is the Lions can take a big jump this season on the field. Rather than a mere hope, that could instead be seen as an expectation for Glenn and company as they get set to attack a new year.