Detroit Lions corner Jeff Okudah labored through a dreadful rookie season, struggling to cover a dust mite and battling injury.
The consensus top corner in last year's draft looked lost on the field in former coach Matt Patricia's defense. Having already met with Lions new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and DBs coach Aubrey Pleasant, Okudah told reporters Thursday that he's learned things to help get him back on the right path.
"Just sitting down with them, within the first couple meetings I was picking up so much things that I thought to myself, like, it would have just been nice to have these tools in my toolbox going into my rookie year," Okudah said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "I'm still grateful to have them going into the second year, and I think that it's only been two or three months, and we still have all this work to do. It just has me excited how much more there is to learn, and how much better there is to get leading up to the season."
The 22-year-old corner was selected No. 3 overall last year with the belief he owned the speed and ball skills to become an immediate starter. Instead, Okudah fell on his face in Year 1. Pro Football Focus graded him as its last-ranked cornerback in terms of coverage among 136 with at least 220 snaps last year.
In nine games, he compiled two passes defended and one INT to go along with 47 tackles. Okudah allowed a 75 percent completion percentage against him last season. In the final three games he played, the CB allowed all 12 targets his way to be completed.
As a rookie, part of his struggles stemmed from a groin injury that eventually ended his season early. Okudah underwent groin surgery in December. He said that he's "definitely trending towards 100" percent as offseason workouts approach.
"It just feels like I have a different level that I wasn't able to kind of tap into last year," Okudah said. "But I feel like this year just kind of moving around now and not having that pain in my groin anymore, it just feels like a different level so I'm excited to ... get with (Pleasant), craft it up and see what it turns out to be."
The Lions defense has plenty of holes to fill after the previous administration's failures. Okudah turning into a playmaker under the new brass would underscore upgraded brain trust brought in by coach Dan Campbell. Glenn, a first-time coordinator, comes with high recommendations after a 15-year playing career and seven years as an assistant, and Pleasant is viewed as one of the best secondary coaches in the NFL.
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