They don’t beat around the bush here. I’ll just go out and say
Jeff Okuda had a great start Detroit Lions training camp.
The jersey number is new, the competition around him has improved, and expectations for a third-year defender have dimmed a bit. But Okuda looks a lot like the guy the Lions — the team, the fans, the media — were expecting when the former Detroit regime made Okuda 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Of course, the pads are not yet put on, and the number of exercises is limited. Okuda cannot control the rules and restrictions of the NFL to start camp. Anything he can control, Okuda dominates.
He is the fastest cornerer who will play regularly. He is probably the strongest as well, although Jerry Jacobs (currently recovering from his own injury) has something to say about that. And he’s proving he can use those impressive physical skills to consistently win in reporting.
Take workout on thursday. In one period of Okuda training:
Drove Quintez Cephus out of bounds with a traffic jam without doing anything illegal.
Ran step by step with WR Josh Reynolds on a deep course at perfect pace.
Correctly anticipated Cephus’ comeback route and jumped over it, causing QB Jared Goff to grapple twice and quit elsewhere.
In the Friday session, the game was stronger. He once lost in a red zone exercise, losing DJ Chark in traffic in the middle. This was perhaps the only drawback of the Okuda day. He was forward-thinking and quick to react, showing a burst of closing and confidence in his eyes, the two things (besides health) he struggled with the most in his first two years in the NFL.
Head coach Okuda remains bullish on the 23-year-old.
“No one wants this more than him,” Dan Campbell said Wednesday. “I mean he put in the effort, he looks healthy and I think at the moment all you can do is go to work and show what you have and see if you can keep progressing. . Because at the end of the day, the thing is, because of the injury, he just didn’t have football in him.”
This optimism is not unfounded. Okuda was very impressive at the training camp last summer, establishing himself as the best defender in the team. He was healthy after a disappointing rookie campaign when he struggled with a sports hernia and never acclimated to the NFL.
All promises from a year ago have been washed away Achilles injury in the first week. This is something Okuda is now grateful for, which he shared with reporters after practice on Wednesday.
“A blessing just to know where I was a year ago,” Okuda said. “First time competing in about 11 months, so just getting here was a very, very big reward for me personally.”
It’s understandable if fans remain skeptical. They haven’t seen enough good from Okuda in two years. Not even close. He is ready to change that in 2022. Okuda did a great job of rewriting his career history in Detroit.
Can a positive story stay in the script when games start to mean something? We will find out. As long as Okuda is healthy, I’m definitely buying into the new story he’s writing this summer.