Dan Campbell Explains Why Lions’ Top Rookie Struggled in 2020

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell coaching the Dolphins.

The Detroit Lions struggled to unlock the potential of their top rookie pick Jeff Okudah this past season, and many have begun to worry about Okudah’s future as a result of his play.

Not to worry, though, according to new Detroit coach Dan Campbell. In recent weeks, the new Lions’ boss has been taking a deep dive on the roster and looking at every single position while watching tape. Something he noticed? Players were playing timid last season, and that’s what he sees as the biggest problem for Okudah.

Here’s a look at what the coach had to say on the matter while speaking with Kyle Meinke of MLive.com:

To this end, it doesn’t seem as if Campbell believes it’s a talent issue for Okudah, but rather a confidence and a coaching issue. Last season, the Detroit defense struggled as a whole, and there was nowhere to hide for Okudah given the pressure placed on him as a rookie. If the Lions are able to build up the depth a bit on the back end, that might serve to benefit Okudah in a big way.

As Campbell also predicted, he thinks the Lions players are going to take a big step forward next season due in-part to coaching and the staff he has assembled. With defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Okudah will inherit one of the top cornerbacks to play football a few decades back. He’ll also get solid teaching from Aubrey Pleasant, who worked with the likes of Jalen Ramsey in Los Angeles while playing defensive back himself in college.

It’s safe to say that Campbell could be right and the Lions could be set to score in a big way with some new teachers. Campbell’s words could serve to prove why the Lions had such problems on the field, so it will be interesting to see if Okudah and his teammates can bounce back.

Why Jeff Okudah Can Improve for Lions

If there’s one thing that can be said, it’s Okudah will get back in the lab and try to improve quickly from the messes he has seen this season. Entering the 2020 draft, Okudah was described as a football junkie by his Ohio State coaches Okudah isn’t likely to burn the tape from his rookie debut season on the field, but rather use it to improve and study it intently to find out what he can do better. It’s likely he will be even more frustrated by his debut this season than the angriest fans will be.

Last offseason, Okudah was said to already be studying wideouts he will match wits with routinely such as Davante Adams. Natrually, Adams burned him this season, but Okudah was learning on the job, so the reality was things would always get worse before they got better. In time, as Okudah gains more confidence and understands the league more, some modest strides could be expected to be made. Coaching could also help him accomplish this faster.

The significant bet is Okudah will improve greatly in time following what was a rough debut in 2021. It could be clear that the old staff was a major reason why the cornerback had a tough first year in the NFL.

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Jeff Okudah’s Rookie Stats

During his shortened season, Okudah was not the statistical dynamo that folks expected coming out of the draft given his position. He collected only 47 tackles, 1 interception and 2 passes defended and those are the numbers he finishes with. This year, Okudah was more known for the plays he has given up on the field in certain weeks rather than the ones he has made on the field.

Help is on the way according to Campbell, though, and it will be fun to watch and see if the coach is right as it relates to what plagued the top rookie corner last season.

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