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2022 training camp preview: Cornerback

On the roster: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, AJ Parker, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jerry Jacobs, Will Harris, Chase Lucas, Mike Hughes, Bobby Price, Saivion Smith, Mark Gilbert, Cedric Boswell

Key losses: None

Table inside Article
NameGamesTacklesTFLPDINT
Amani Oruwariye14572116
Jeff Okudah14010
AJ Parker1350171
Ifeatu Melifonwu715030
Jerry Jacobs1334370
Will Harris1793040
Chase Lucas*1034160
Mike Hughes^1747061
Bobby Price1518030
Saivion Smith21000
Mark Gilbert83010
Cedric Boswell*13613.571

^with another team *college stats

Best competition: Starting nickel

The thought going into camp, at least if the spring is any indication, is that Oruwariye and Okudah will be the first-team starters on the outside at cornerback for the Lions. Where I think the real competition will be is for the starting nickel spot, which is an important position in the NFL with teams in sub packages on defense 70 percent of the time.

Parker won the job last year as an undrafted rookie, but the incumbent could have some good competition for the job, mostly from the veteran Hughes and rookie Lucas.

Like most rookies, Parker had an up and down first season with the Lions last year. Opposing passers had a 108.4 passer rating throwing at Parker with four touchdowns. But he also had some really good performances and finished on a high note with his best game of the year coming in the season finale against Green Bay.

Hughes played the majority of his snaps on the outside for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, but started his career in Minnesota playing inside a lot more. He had a nice interception stepping in front of a Tim Boyle pass in spring practices, and is a savvy competitor inside.

Lucas played 138 snaps in the slot last year at Arizona State, switching between outside and inside. He did that the last two years for the Sun Devils. He's got a ton of experience (49 starts) and some good athletic traits.

View photos of the Detroit Lions cornerbacks heading into training camp.

Twentyman's take: This is a big season for Okudah, who after being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has played in just 10 games his first two years due to injury. He tore his Achilles Week 1 last year which forced him to miss the next 16 games. From talking with Okudah this spring and summer, it's clear he's extremely motivated to go out and play 17 games and be the impact player the Lions think he can be on the outside.

With Oruwariye establishing himself as a legit No. 1 caliber cornerback last season, if Okudah can stay healthy and play up to his potential, the Lions cornerback room could be in a nice position with a couple young starters and good depth.

Harris and Melifonwu have worked at both safety and cornerback. They are nice matchup players. The Lions think they really found a bulldog in Jacobs, who became a starter last year before tearing his ACL in December. He'll very much be in the mix somewhere when he gets back on the field.

Overall I like the versatility and depth at the position.

By the numbers:

6: Interceptions recorded by Oruwariye last season, the third most in the league. He was one of just three players to record at least 50 tackles, 10 defended passes and six picks.

32: Forced incompletions by Lucas over his college career, which was the most among all Pac-12 players since 2017, per Pro Football Focus.

56: Completions of 20-plus yards allowed by the Lions' defense in 2021, which ranked 24th in the NFL.

96.5: Opponent passer rating on balls that traveled 21-plus yards in the air last season.

1,033: Combined snaps played by undrafted rookies Parker (530) and Jacobs (503) last season, which were tops among all Lions rookies on defense.

Quotable: "I feel like I've been hungry, like I haven't ate in years," Okudah said last month. "That hunger has just been inside of me since the injury. Really, even before the injury. I've had that feeling, man, for like two years, just that hunger. I'm ready to go out there and play to the best of my ability."

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