Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah was not healthy during his struggle of a 2020 season, that much is obvious. Only now is the true extent of his injury coming to light.
Okudah wasn’t himself as a rookie for the Lions, and the reasoning wasn’t merely the transition to the NFL. The rookie cornerback was dealing with a painful injury most of the year, and actually had a double surgery to try and fix what ailed him.
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Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network revealed that not only did Okudah have a core muscle injury which required surgery on one side, he had the other side fixed at the same time as a potential preventative measure for the future.
Hopefully, Okudah is done dealing with such problems now, but at the time, having core trouble could be seen as a significant reason for all of Okudah’s trouble. Often times, he was a step slow and out of position. Some of that has to do with being a rookie in a tough league, but it’s also true that the injury could have made things hard on Okudah.
Now, Okudah could be all systems go for camp and a much better 2021 year.
Okudah Called Lions’ X-Factor for 2021 Season
Recently, Pro Football Focus looked at breaking down NFL rosters and provided an x-factor for every team this coming season. Interestingly enough, Okudah was singled out for the team.
As part of this rating, writer Ben Linsey placed the team in 31st position which was second-worst in the league, but also called out Okudah as a potential x-factor for the team that could turn things around.
“Jeff Okudah was supposed to be one of the prospects in last year’s draft class who was too good to fail. The size, athletic traits and production were all near-ideal coming out of Ohio State. Yet Okudah struggled as a rookie. His 2.3 yards allowed per coverage snap were the most of any qualifying cornerback in the NFL last season, and he had issues through injuries and Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme en route to a 30.9 coverage grade. The talent is still there. The Lions are just hoping it starts to show in 2021.”
If Okudah rounded into form, it might be a situation not unlike what Detroit saw play out with Darius Slay a few years back. After struggling as a rookie, Slay came into his own the next few seasons and developed enough to help the Lions defense become solid. That’s the hope here for Okudah as he tries to rejuvenate his own career early on.
Okudah’s Rookie Stats
The rookie season wasn’t phenomenal statistically for Okudah, who only put up 47 tackles, 2 passes defended and 1 interception in 2020. The cornerback fought injury most of his rookie season and was never completely right, and also may have never felt comfortable with the coaching he was being given by Matt Patricia and company. As a result, Okudah struggled as a rookie and was often picked on by the opposition leading to some rough days on the field like he experienced early in the season in Green Bay. The stats didn’t show a player primed to make a huge impact, but it’s more than possible that Okudah can turn this around quickly this season and have a much better showing. If he could be around 80 tackles and have closer to 5 interceptions in 2021, that would have to be seen as some huge strides forward and a major positive.
With his health history considered, it’s clear Okudah could be on track for a much better season now that he is feeling well.
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