Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah will excel by having a stronger supporting cast

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions’ second-year corner Jeff Okudah is expected to shine in year two.

After spending a hefty price on Okudah, selecting the Ohio State corner third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, he will look to prove his worth on the football field in year two.

Okudah struggled mightily as a rookie, but it certainly was not all his fault.  Okudah, like every NFL player, will always be attached to his draft position.

The previous management regime of the Detroit Lions made a last-ditched effort to prove to ownership that the organization had been moving in the right direction in year three of the Matt Patricia era.  Instead, the franchise continued to sputter, leading to the removal of GM Bob Quinn and what appeared to be a clueless Patricia.

Instead of selecting a quarterback like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, or even Derrick Brown, the organization opted to select Okudah, making him the first cornerback to be chosen in the top three since the Seattle Seahawks selected Shawn Springs, also out of Ohio State, third overall in 1997.

As a rookie, Okudah had been hampered by injury, which eventually led to his season-ending prematurely.

During the 2020 season, Okudah ranked dead last in yards allowed per route among all cornerbacks with a minimum of 215 defensive snaps.  Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Okudah 116th out of 122 players at the position.  PFF gave Okudah an overall grade of 41.8, which is simply atrocious.

Where will Jeff Okudah improve in year two with the Detroit Lions?

Well, to put it blatantly, everywhere.

Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme didn’t exactly help Okudah; just ask Darius Slay.  Slay is a premier corner that struggled being left on an island down after down in Patricia’s scheme that relies on the outside corners playing exclusively in man coverage.

Slay is talented enough to play this style, but no corner will hold up in coverage for upwards of five or six seconds against the league’s best receivers.  With the Lions’ defense failing to generate any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the secondary had been forced into coverage for what is basically a lifetime at the NFL level.

Slay moved on to Philadelphia and was replaced by Okudah last season, who struggled due to the defense having the same issues among the teams’ defensive front.

Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes quickly assessed the situation and repaired the teams’ defensive front a priority immediately after accepting the position.  Holmes added a familiar face in Michael Brockers via the Los Angeles Rams, who will be paired with second and third-round picks from the 2021 NFL Draft Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill.

The trio will be a significant upgrade to Danny Shelton and co.  Expect the Lions to generate plenty of interior push in 2021, something they haven’t had since 2018 after adding Damon Harrison, but his production decreased to next to nothing the following season.

With the Lions now able to disrupt the pocket from the inside, this will allow edge rushers Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers, and Julian Okwara to feast coming around the outside.

Newly appointed defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former highly decorated corner in this league will certainly aid Detroit’s young corners and help them reach their full potential.

Next. Predicting how each rookie will fit in this upcoming season. dark

The overall added pressure on the quarterback will greatly help the Lions’ secondary. We will see vastly improved metrics from Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Quinton Dunbar, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Corn Elder this upcoming season from what we’ve seen out of the position in years past.