Lions might bench cornerback Amani Oruwariye, if they could
Given how poorly he has played this season, the Lions would probably bench cornerback Amani Oruwariye–if they could.
Last season, Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye asserted himself as an emerging star. He finished third in the league with six interceptions, and had the makings of being/becoming a shut down corner.
In Week 1 this year, Oruwariye was routinely beaten by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown. He missed Week 2 against the Washington Commanders with a back injury. In Week 3, he struggled against Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen in a penalty-filled outing.
In Week 4, things were not any better for Oruwariye, primarily going against Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
It’s worth wondering if Oruwariye isn’t healthy, either with the aforementioned back issue that cost him a game lingering (as back issues can certainly do) or something else. There’s no other obvious explanation for his drop-off, beyond seemingly having to adjust to the league’s emphasis on calling anything resembling illegal contact on defensive players in coverage.
The Lions might bench Amani Oruwariye, if they could
Through four weeks, with a h/t to Lions Wire, Pro Football Focus has graded Oruwariye dead last out of 117 cornerbacks with enough snaps (50) to qualify for a grade (27.7). His coverage grade on its own is second-worst.
Per PFF, Oruwariye is also tied for the league lead in missed tackles with six, and if not for that missed game he might lead the league by himself. His six penalties do lead all cornerbacks.
If the Lions had a viable alternative to use opposite Jeff Okudah, they might bench Oruwariye. Bench might be a strong word, but a reduction in his role would certainly be in order. He played 99 percent of the snaps in each of the first two game he played this season, and if not for exiting Week 4 for a bit due to an injury he would have threatened that rate again (62 snaps; 89 percent as it was).
But the Lions just don’t have an easy option to step into a bigger role in Oruwariye’s stead.
Will Harris is clearly a better corner than he was a safety, so he’d be the default No. 1 option to take on more if Oruwariye had his role reduced. Mike Hughes has struggled almost as much as Oruwariye in his role as the Lions’ nickel corner, grading out as PFF’s No. 99 cornerback through four weeks. Rookie Chase Lucas profiles better as a slot corner, and he’d be an automatic target for opposing offenses. Second-year man Ifeatu Melifonwu moved to safety this offseason, but he could be an option to see some snaps back at corner.
So the Lions are likely left to let Oruwariye work through his current problems out on the field, whatever they might be to be causing his poor play.
As personnel changes are considered and implented on defense, reducing Oruwariye’s role in a noticeable way is certainly not high on the list–if it’s on the list at all.