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2021 training camp preview: Cornerback

On the roster: Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Quinton Dunbar, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Mike Ford, Corn Elder, Alex Brown, Jerry Jacobs, AJ Parker

Key losses: Desmond Trufant, Justin Coleman, Tony McRae, Darryl Roberts

Table inside Article
Name Games Tackles TFL PD INT
Jeff Okudah 9 47 4 2 1
Amani Oruwariye 16 53 1 7 1
Quinton Dunbar^ 6 30 2 5 1
Ifeatu Melifonwu* 10 54 3 6 1
Mike Ford 9 12 0 1 0
Corn Elder^ 16 40 1 3 0
Alex Brown^ 0 0 0 0 0
Jerry Jacobs* 4 17 1 0 0
AJ Parker* 9 40 3.5 4 1

*college stats ^with another team

Best competition: Three starting spots.

There are a lot of new faces in the cornerback room, and how the pecking order works itself out could be one of the better position competitions come training camp.

Last year's first-round pick, Okudah, seems pretty secure at one of the two outside starting spots, but like anyone else, he'll have to earn the job in camp.

Where it gets interesting is the other outside cornerback spot where Oruwariye and Dunbar rotated opposite Okudah during the offseason. Melifonwu will try to throw his hat into the competition in camp as well. Could we see a surprise performer in Brown, Jacobs or Parker?

Another good competition is expected to take place between the veterans Ford and Elder for the starting nickel corner spot. Both have a lot of experience, and both ran with the first-team defense at points in the offseason.

Twentyman's take: The message from this new coaching staff to Okudah this offseason has been to just be himself and not try to live up to being the No. 3 overall pick. It seems like Okudah has appreciated that message, and he's extremely motivated to play good football in 2021 after an injury-plagued rookie campaign. Okudah had surgery in December to repair a core muscle injury, and says he feels better than he has in years. If he can stay healthy, we should expect a significant uptick in production from him in year two.

Detroit's most consistent cornerback last season was Oruwariye, who will have to compete with Dunbar and others to keep his starter role. Oruwariye doesn't get enough credit for how consistent he played last year. It will be hard to supplant him.

Between Okudah, Oruwariye, Dunbar and Melifonwu, the Lions have terrific speed and length at the position, and finally some good depth, which is always a plus.

There are still some question marks, but on paper, the group appears to have been upgraded, and we should see some really good competition in camp.

By the numbers:

2: Touchdowns allowed by Elder last season in 232 coverage snaps in the slot.

7: Interceptions recorded by the Lions' defense last season, tied for second fewest in the NFL.

97 & 98: Melifonwu's vertical jump of 42 inches at Syracuse's pro day was in the 97th percentile for the position. His broad jump of 134 inches was in the 98th percentile. Athletically, Melifonwu was one of the more gifted corners in the draft.

125.2: Opponent passer rating against Detroit last season on throws that traveled 20-plus yards in the air.

2,114: The total number of yards after the catch allowed by the Lions last season, fifth most in the NFL.

Quotable: "I think going forward, definitely have that on my mind and definitely something that's really going to fuel my hunger this offseason," Okudah said of his inconsistent 2020 season. "Not necessarily trying to prove everyone wrong, just trying to prove a lot of people right."

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