Through the first two weeks of Detroit Lions training camp, all eyes have been on rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah. When you’re the third overall pick in the draft, you’re going to draw people’s eyes. And while his play is certainly trending up, he’s gone through some rookie moments as he adjusts to life in the NFL. It doesn’t help that he’s going against a pretty impressive receiving duo. To be blunt, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. have bested him often, especially towards the beginning of the camp.
As a result, Okudah is still mostly repping with the second-team defense. As he starts to gain his footing, he’s been earning some playing time with the starter. However, where Okudah is still learning, second-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye is already looking the part as a starter opposite veteran Desmond Trufant. So much so, that the Lions feel comfortable with him as a starter.
“Oh, he’s more than ready, I would say,” defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said on Sunday.
During the 2019 NFL Draft, many analysts were puzzled to see Oruwariye fall all the way to the fifth round. He was deemed a steal when the Lions finally scooped him up. After fighting off some injuries early in his rookie season, Oruwariye worked his way into the defensive lineup for the final couple months of the season, including two starts. And he wasn’t half-bad, either. In fact, he became the first Lions cornerback not named Darius Slay to log two interceptions in a season season since Cassius Vaughn did it in 2014.
“As he progressed through that last year, I think at the end of the year when he had those opportunities, he made some really good plays,” head coach Matt Patricia said at the beginning of camp.
Undlin was quick to point out that they were far from ready to give the job to Oruwariye or crown Okudah as the Week 1 starter, but thus far in training camp, it’s hard to ignore how comfortable Oruwariye looks out there.
“Very, very impressed with where he’s at,” Undlin said. “The things that he’s done thus far—he looks like a seasoned veteran right now in everything that he’s doing. So I’m really pleased with where he’s at.”
But don’t fret about Okudah, either. Undlin says he’s on a “steady incline” and given the lack of offseason programs, he’s where the Lions expect him to be.
“That’s all we can ask from any of our players—vets, rookies, whatever,” Undlin said of Okudah’s progress. “So, I like the direction that he’s headed in. We’re not there yet. I don’t think any of us are there yet. If you ask any players, we’ve still got two weeks left here to clean it all up and get ready for that first game. But I’m not disappointed on the work he’s been doing and where he’s going. Still have a long way to go.”