Between injuries and some spotty play, cornerback Jeff Okudah did not have a good rookie year for the Lions in 2020.
He appeared in only nine games, starting six of them. And he didn’t play at all following Detroit’s 20-0 loss to Carolina on Nov. 22, undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle injury in mid-December.
New head coach Dan Campbell has said he wants Okudah to play with more confidence going forward. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn echoed that in a video conference on Wednesday afternoon.
But Glenn also wants to take some of the pressure off the young corner that comes from his draft status.
“I think the first thing you let those guys know — like a guy like Okudah — [is] listen, let your best be good enough for us,” Glenn said. “Don’t try to live up to be the third pick in the draft. We don’t need to you do that. We just need you to be the best Okudah you can be, and that will be good enough for us.”
In some ways, this new coaching staff has the luxury of feeling that way toward the young corner because Okudah was drafted by a former regime. But Glenn noted that like every other position, Okudah should expect to have some competition to push him.
Glenn went on to say that he wants to simplify responsibilities not just for Okudah, but also the entire secondary.
“If your job is to go cover this guy, you go cover this guy and don’t let him catch it. And now it takes a lot of thinking out,” Glenn said. “So you look at the tape, you see [receivers] in stacks and bunches — they don’t know what to do. We want to make sure that’s not happening with our guys. So that takes a lot of confusion out. And when you’re not confused, you’re able to play fast.
“We’re going to be simple enough for our guys to know exactly what they’re doing and they can perform their duties.”
Glenn has experience training young defensive backs, having coached New Orleans’ defensive backs from 2016-2020. The Lions will need him to help get the most out of Okudah, even if living up to his lofty draft status isn’t the highest priority.