Detroit Lions: 4 players under the most pressure in 2021

Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions ((Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

Jeff Okudah

Position: Cornerback

Age: 22

2020 stats: 9 games played, 1 interception, 47 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss

No surprise here. Okudah’s rookie season was brutal, with injuries, an inept coaching staff, and nightmarish matchups with some of the game’s best wideouts preventing him from making any legitimate progress. It can only get better, right?

The Lions sure hope so. While there’s little sense in writing off a cornerback after just one year – most rookies at the position struggle – Okudah will never be able to escape the expectations of being a third overall draft pick, or the comparisons to players taken after him.

Perhaps a fresh start, in a new scheme, with new coaches will help him. Can new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, himself a former first-round draft selection and a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, unlock the promise that made Okudah a can’t-miss prospect?

Okudah seems on track to be one of the Lions’ starting outside cornerbacks, either alongside third-year player Amani Oruwairye or veteran Quinton Dunbar. Along with a clean bill of health, a strong showing in training camp could propel Okudah’s development and progress.

With an all-business attitude, an athletic frame, and sharp ball skills, there is no reason that Okudah can’t become a fine NFL cornerback. Don’t be surprised, however, if opposing passing attacks target him early next season to see if he can hold his own.

Expecting a quantum leap forward from Okudah in 2021 may be asking too much, but he has to put last year in the rearview mirror and make strides. If he stumbles again, the dreaded “bust” murmurs will grow louder and he’ll have a hard time proving that he is a key piece for a rebuilding franchise.