The Detroit Lions have endured an up and down start on defense to begin the 2022 season, but one of the best parts has been the play of cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Faced with a make-or-break season, Okudah has stepped up and delivered in a big way, and is now looking like a player capable of locking down any top receiver on the field.
So far this season, Okudah has already shut down the likes of DeVonta Smith and Justin Jefferson. While there might have been some question as to whether or not Okudah was up to the challenge entering the year, so far he’s answered them.
That’s played out so much so that already, Okudah is being called a candidate for an extension. ESPN insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano took a look at some early-season storylines.
In terms of Graziano, he hinted that Okudah could be playing his way into an extension in the future if he is able to keep up the solid moves on the field. So far, as he explained, his growth with the new staff and play might be moving him up the pecking order.
“It’s early, but Okudah has so far played up to his draft position and could be a sneaky extension candidate next offseason if he keeps it up,” Graziano wrote in the piece.
The Lions will have a lot of personnel decisions to make in the future including tight end T.J. Hockenson, but Okudah being one would be a major plus. The cornerback stepping up is something that the defense has needed, and could elevate the play of plenty of other players on that side of the ball.
Detroit will likely wait and see with Okudah, but he is certainly trending in a positive direction early in his career.
Okudah Locking Down Top Wideouts This Year
While his work in Week 3 against Jefferson may end up the most impressive of the young season so far, Okudah has been great no matter who he has lined up against.
In Week 1 of the season, Okudah shadowed Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Smith got nothing done offensively against the Lions. During Week 2, Okudah put Washington wideout Terry McLaurin in the defensive straight jacket. All of that foreshadowed what he was able to do against Jefferson.’
The elite wideout was missing in action for Minnesota most of the day as CBS Sports pointed out. He had just three receptions for 14 yards.
“Jeff Okudah put Justin Jefferson on LOCKDOWN today. 6 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards,” the site tweeted.
During college, Okudah was known as a true shut-down cornerback, and while he never got to show that much early in his career, it seems he is finally coming into his own with a solid career trajectory and some major performances.
Dan Campbell Impressed With Okudah’s Play
Not only are the insiders beginning to complement Okudah, but his coaching staff is, as well. After a great start to the year, Detroit coach Dan Campbell is very encouraged with what he has seen.
Speaking on September 23, Campbell was asked about Okudah and admitted that he’s been doing a great job so far to step up and make his presence felt on the defensive end of things.
“Lions coach Dan Campbell on Jeff Okudah: “He looks great. Physically, I think that he can run, he’s explosive. He’s using his length. … He’s learning, he’s growing, he’s putting in the reps, and so he’s only going to just get better and better,” Bianchi tweeted after hearing Campbell speak.
So far, Okudah has taken to coaching in Detroit and has stepped up. That leaves him in a great position to perhaps cash in when his rookie deal is over. Naturally, he will have to keep working hard and making plays, but already, the stars could be aligning for Okudah.