Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah has been picked on a ton to start his NFL career, but finally, Okudah started do some picking of his own.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, Okudah stepped in front of a Kyler Murray pass and took it the other way for his first career interception.
The Lions would cash in the pick for a field goal and a 20-16 lead over the Cardinals in the second half.
Jeff Okudah’s Tough Start
Okudah hasn’t had an easy go of it as he starts his career. According to ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell, Okudah is going to be one of the most compelling people to watch in the league this season as a result of where he was drafted and who he figures to line up against. Okudah came in at No. 35 on Barnwell’s list of the 40 most compelling personalities in football this season, and he explained that his early slate of challenges is a big reason why.
“It’s foolish to count on most cornerbacks to do much during their rookie season. Okudah has no choice but to jump right into the fire. The highest-drafted cornerback of the past two decades, he joins a Lions team that traded away Darius Slay and has played more man coverage under coach Matt Patricia than anybody in the league besides New England. He starts with Allen Robinson (Bears), Davante Adams (Packers), DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) and Michael Thomas (Saints) before the Lions’ Week 5 bye. No pressure.”
Robinson, Adams, Hopkins, and Thomas is merely just the start. The rest of the season, the Lions will also see several other similarly elite names such as T.Y. Hilton, Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks and A.J. Brown. It’s not the easiest slate, which is why Okudah will have to rely on his teammates to help him adjust through the ups and downs that are sure to come.
Life is going to come at Okudah very fast as he’s soon about to learn, which is probably the reason the Lions have not completely committed to him being the starter as of yet. Smart money remains on Okudah playing a big role for the team as a whole this season. The impact he makes, however, could be another story.
So far, it hasn’t been all good for Okudah, but this pick is a step in the right direction.
Jeff Okudah’s Case for Improving
Though he’s struggled, signs are already there that Okudah is turning around. If there’s one thing that can be said, it’s Okudah will get back in the lab and try to improve quickly. He’s been described as a football junkie by his Ohio State coaches, and Matt Patricia has seen that as well early while working with him. Okudah isn’t likely to burn the tape from his rookie debut, but rather use it to improve and study it intently. It’s likely he will be even more frustrated by his debuts than the angriest fan.
This offseason, Okudah was said to already be studying wideouts he will match wits with routinely such as Adams. Essentially, he’s learning on the job, so expect things to get worse in the coming weeks before they ever get better. In time, as Okudah gains more confidence and understands the league more, some modest strides could be expected.
Should the team continue to struggle as a group, don’t cast your frustration in the direction of Okudah. The Lions have plenty of problems, and a rookie cornerback learning a tough position on the fly isn’t likely to be their biggest issue by the time the season ends.
The significant bet is Okudah will improve greatly in time following what was a rough debut. It’s never easy to ask Lions fans to be patient, but in this particular case, it’s the only realistic command.