One of the better storylines early on this season for the Detroit Lions is the play of cornerback Jeff Okudah. Limited by injuries his first two seasons in the league, including an Achilles injury that wiped away nearly his entire 2021 season, Okudah grinded through the hard times knowing brighter days were ahead.
Now healthy, Okudah is showing us why he was considered one of the top prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft, ultimately going No. 3 overall to Detroit.
Through three games, Okudah has played 91 percent of the snaps on defense and is allowing just 36 yards per game with no touchdowns in his coverage area. Opposing quarterbacks have a 74.6 passer rating when throwing at him in three games. He held Vikings All-Pro receiver Justin Jefferson to two receptions for nine yards when matched up across from him last week.
"I'm definitely proud of where I'm at right now," Okudah said this week.
But it's another week and another tough matchup for Okudah and the Lions secondary with Seattle and the terrific receiving duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett coming to town.
Speaking of Metcalf, he was asked about Okudah this week and said this: "There's a safety over the top of him, so he's really not locking people down. But he's a good corner."
I'm sure that will find its way to Okudah's ears. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn was asked about those comments on Thursday.
"That's defense," Glenn said. "Our job is to match our players up and then also be able scheme to take people out. Regardless if it's there's a safety, there's a linebacker. We just play defense the way we have to play it to win."
It will be fun to watch when Okudah and Metcalf find themselves across from one another on Sunday.
Asked about Okudah specifically and the start to the season he's having, Glenn was very complimentary.
"As the season progressed, you started seeing him get more confident in who he is as a player," Glenn said. "You start seeing some of the things he did when he was at Ohio State, as far as shutting people down."
That's high praise from a former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who did it at a high level for a long time in this league.
Okudah is playing really well to start the season, and the Lions will need that to continue Sunday if they want to get back to .500 with a win over the Seahawks.
WILLIAMS MAKING PROGRESS
With all the injuries the Lions are dealing with at the wide receiver position, they could certainly use the services of rookie Jameson Williams, but that will have to wait as he remains on Reserve/NFI and not available to return until Week 5 at the earliest.
"He's coming along. I wish it was yesterday," Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said this week. "He's just got to keep working at it, and that's the thing. He's working hard, not just in the weight room but in the training room and all that stuff to try to get back and get going, get his first taste."
Williams has posted videos of himself running and cutting on his social media.
"Oh, he can play," Randle El said on what to expect once Williams gets back on the field. "He's a guy you can move around. He's smart, he gets it in terms of being in different spots, and that's what you want to do with a guy like that, use his speed whether it's him running past somebody or him getting somebody else open. That speed means a lot."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.
It's been an up and down start to rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson's tenure with the Lions.
He was able to generate pressure Week 1 vs. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, but didn't finish a few opportunities and left some plays on the field. Week 2, he burst on the scene with 3.0 sacks before suffering a thigh injury that slowed him some in the second half. Last week, in the loss to Minnesota, he thought he did some good things watching the tape, but generated one hit and one pressure with no tackles in the final stat book.
When Hutchinson evaluates himself on tape he says it goes way beyond just sacks. Making sure he's doing his assignment and having no missed assignments is big for him. He evaluates his get off at the line of scrimmage and his pad level.
"I can't be mad at myself. Even if you're not getting some sacks some games, you have to live with it and know we have a lot more football left," he said Thursday. "That's why you have to stay even keeled throughout it all."
For this defense to be better, they'll need their No. 2 pick to make more of the splash plays that impact the game, like we saw against Washington in their lone victory on the year.