For a No. 3 overall pick, Jeff Okudah struggled through his rookie season.
There were various challenges for the rookie out of Ohio State. Okudah battled a hamstring injury in training camp that held him out of the season opener. But once he got on the field, he clearly did not play well.
Okudah registered an interception but only two passes defensed while making 47 tackles in nine games — illustrating how often he was targeted. He finished the year on injured reserve as he underwent surgery for a core muscle issue.
Detroit’s new head coach Dan Campbell is inheriting Okudah from a previous regime, but recently said he likes Okudah a lot and wants to instill confidence back in the young corner.
“Man, if you lack confidence as a cornerback or a quarterback? Either one of those two? Then that’s tough, man. You got to be thick-skinned. Like, talking about Okudah, you got to be willing to get your ass beat a couple of times, but then you have to snap back, because the game is on the line, you’re going to have to make that play,” Campbell said, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. “But I don’t care how talented you are — and you know this — if you lack confidence that the people around you who are making decisions and setting up the defensive calls and [saying] this is what you’re going to do, I don’t care how thick-skinned you are, if you feel like people don’t believe in you, you’re going to lose confidence.”
Campbell has assembled a quality staff, with former Satins defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn as defensive coordinator and former Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant as defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator. With a full, healthy offseason, Okudah should be well positioned to take a step forward in his second season. But he’ll have much to prove in 2021.