Cornerback Jeff Okudah laid out during a team period in Thursday's practice at Allen Park for the Detroit Lions to knock a pass away from a receiver.
He undercut an in-route by wide receiver Kenny Golladay early in Friday's practice to force an incomplete pass. Later in practice Friday, Okudah stuck right with wide receiver Marvin Jones. Jr. down the right sideline on a deep pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the rookie went up and recorded his first interception of training camp.
It's plays like those the No. 3 overall pick this year says gives him growing confidence every day.
"I think it builds a lot of confidence just seeing that you can make plays at the next level, especially against guys like Marvin Jones, a great receiver," Okudah said. "I think that every day I just look forward to going against him and Kenny (Golladay) and just competing."
Stafford, who spoke to the media right after Okudah, was asked about the interception. He was quick to point out that it came on a free play after the defense had jumped offsides and he decided to take a free shot to Jones. In the same breath, Stafford also praised the rookie for being able to go up and make the play.
"Like, that's good for our team that he's making plays down the field," Stafford said. "That's just an example of his ball skills. We got a free one and I put one up to Marv and the DB goes and makes it ... it was a really nice play by him. He undercut another ball today and made a pass breakup on Kenny (Golladay) on an in-route that was really impressive, too, so he's done some nice stuff."
With no rookie minicamp, no offseason, no OTAs or June minicamp, this week has been kind of a trial by fire for Okudah and the rest of the rookies trying to adapt to the speed of the game and the physicality at the NFL level.
The Lions have done a nice job easing Okudah into the mix and increasing his first-team reps gradually through the first week of padded practice. Friday, he played almost exclusively with the first-team defense, and it was good to see him make some plays. He gave some plays up, too, but as the No. 3 overall pick this offseason, Okudah is expected to play a big role.
Because of that fact, teammates have been good about helping the rookie along. And not just his fellow defenders, either. Jones and Golladay have worked with him off to the side giving him pointers. He's been picking the brains of the quarterbacks as well.
"I've definitely been soaking it in from everyone," Okudah said. "Whether it's Marvin, whether it's Chase Daniel or whether it's (Desmond) Trufant. I think that just gaining different perspectives from different players on the team has been really enlightening for me."
It's impressed some of the veterans like Stafford to see a young player try to do everything he can to improve himself.
"I've seen a lot of corners come in, young guys, first couple days is just trying to figure out speed of the game and physicality of the game, get their feet underneath them," Stafford said.
"I think that was the case for him and a lot of our rookies, but he's done a nice job progressing. I think he's got good ball skills. He's a long guy. Can really run. I'm impressed with the way he goes to work every day. He's doing a nice job on the practice field and competing at a high level."
This is a different kind of year with no preseason and the regular season fast approaching. Rookies are behind the eight ball a little bit, but the way Okudah has progressed over the first week is encouraging for both Okudah and the Lions.
"For me, it's about laying down a solid groundwork and then finding something to get one percent better at every single day," Okudah said of his first week of training camp practice. "If I can come in one day and I might say, 'Let me work on my press technique. Let me work on my eye discipline one day.' I think in that sense it helps just to not get overwhelmed by just keeping the vision smaller and letting the days stack up, putting our head down and just grinding."