Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah had high expectations placed upon him before the 2020 NFL season began.
After all, the Lions drafted him to replace Darius Slay, who they traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in March. Yes, Okudah is a former All-American while at Ohio State. However, replacing a three-time Pro Bowler is a tall task for any rookie.
And let’s be honest, to say that he’s struggled would be an understatement.
According to Pro Football Focus, Okudah ranks low on the totem pole. In their analytics for cornerbacks, ranking 116 out of 121. His grades for run defense rank among the top corners in the league.
Thing is, his coverage against the pass rank among the worst.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia knows it too. It’s the reason his eyes got big when asked about Okudah’s next test on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Jeff Okudah vs. Julio Jones
Patricia knows Okudah will have a tall task ahead in his attempts to cover Falcons All-Pro wide receiver, Julio Jones. His eyes grew wide Wednesday afternoon while speaking to the media about it.
“Julio Jones is phenomenal. I don’t know how you want to look at it – fortunate enough or unfortunate enough – to play against this guy and watch him just do some amazing things out on the field.”, said Patricia.
“I think for young corners, and certainly, guys that haven’t played against him before, I don’t think you really understand how big and strong he is. You see him run incredible routes on tape, and I think that most of the guys that you see run routes with that sort of detail, that sort of explosion, that sort of change of direction, aren’t really that big and that strong. I don’t mean that in a negative way. This guy is big and strong and can move like that. It’s just a whole different level guy. So, you just try to do the best you can to prepare him for what he does, and obviously just try to have a good game-plan around it and give the guys confidence that, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and obviously, we’ve got to play an entire, complete game as a defense. I think they’ve done a great job. (Calvin) Ridley, on the other side – some of his ability to get in and out of breaks, his explosiveness in start-stop is amazing. So, I think they’ve just done a good job with those guys, and Julio deserves all the attention that he gets.”
The Hurst Factor
Unfortunately for the struggling Okudah, Jones seems to be in his All-Pro form. After suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4, he returned to form in a 40-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Jones finished with eight receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
And to make matters worse for Okudah, Patricia acknowledges Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst as X-Factor to consider.
“One of the guys I think is sneaky in the whole thing is (Hayden) Hurst.”, said Patricia.
“I think he’s a guy that you spend so much time worried about the wide receivers, that the tight end position gets lost in there, and he has some big plays, too.”
The verdict is still out on whether the Lions made the right decision to draft Jeff Okudah. However, his play so far indicates that he (and the Lions) are in for a very long Sunday.