One can’t blame Lions rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah if he wants the start of his NFL career back.
Okudah, the third overall pick in April’s NFL draft, had a nightmarish start to his career. Receivers regularly burnt Okudah through the first three weeks of his rookie seasons.
The Detroit Lions have reason to be optimistic about Okudah’s future, though, and it had nothing to do with his first career interception.
Jeff Okudah dominated at Ohio State
An initial glance at Jeff Okudah’s college stats, save for his three interceptions as a senior, might make his performance at Ohio State seem underwhelming.
A deep dive into the film, though, shows a dominant shutdown cornerback who teams chose not to throw at, especially in 2019. A rangy cornerback who stands 6 feet 1 inch and weighs 202 pounds, Okudah broke up 17 passes in his final two years at Ohio State.
Detroit drafted Okudah, a unanimous All-American, with the third overall pick in April.
Okudah had a nightmarish start to his career
In Jeff Okudah’s defense (no pun intended), he debuted in Week 1 without having a traditional rookie transition from college to the NFL.
Okudah had 13 tackles and two tackles for loss in his first two games. But those bad players, understandably, took precedence over those stats.
USA Today provided a look at just how bad Okudah was in his first three games.
“Overall, he allowed a catch on five of the six passes thrown his way for 79 receiving yards. He earned an ugly overall PFF grade (35.7), but he did at least get himself back in the positive column with an interception later in the game.”
Although Okudah struggled to begin his NFL career, Lions fans shouldn’t give up on him or start burning his jerseys yet.
The Lions believe Jeff Okudah is ‘trending in the right direction’
If the Detroit Lions hope to build off a Week 3 victory against the Cardinals, they’ll need Okudah to step up and build off his Week 3 interception.
According to the Detroit Free Press, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin thinks Okudah is “trending in the right direction.”
“We’ve played three games, about to play the fourth here. And with every rep he gets — I think I’ve said this before, I’m a strong believer, especially for rookies, there’s no substitute for experience. The more you play, the more it slows down for you.”
Detroit has several challenging tasks ahead. The Lions host Drew Brees and the Saints in Week 4, a team trying to rebound from two straight losses. After a bye week, Detroit travels to face Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars in Week 6. Detroit plays at Matt Ryan and the Falcons in Week 7.
None of those teams had a winning record through Week 3, but they all have talented quarterbacks and strong offenses around them.