Jeff Okudah balled out in 2019 wearing these flashy mouthguards

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Jeff Okudah balled out in 2019 wearing these flashy mouthguards

Player Spotlight: Jeff Okudah, Detriot Lions 

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Cornerback Jeff Okudah is one of many young Detroit Lions players prepared to lead the team back in the right direction.

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Detroit selected Okudah with the third overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Okudah was the first defensive back taken off the board. In his three years at Ohio State University, Okudah earned a reputation for being one of the most talented defensive players in the nation. He set himself apart from the competition in his junior year, when he totaled 28 solo tackles, nine passes defended, three interceptions, and one forced fumble.

 

The Buckeyes finished with a perfect 12-0 regular season record, beating strong Big 10 opponents like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan. Ohio State earned a trip to the College Football Playoff, but they fell to Clemson in the first round. Still, Okudah was able to put up four solo tackles and two passes defended on college football’s biggest stage.

 

Okudah will join a Lions team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016. Last year, they finished 3-12-1 and ended up in last place in the NFC North. The team ranked 18th in total points scored in the regular season, but their defense ranked 26th in points allowed. After beating the Giants to even up their record at 3-3-1 in Week 8, Detroit went on a nine-game losing streak to close the season.

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The Lions will once again have potent offensive weapons like Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Kerryon Johnson on the field, but their defense still needs to improve significantly if they hope to reach the postseason. Darius Slay, the team’s number one cornerback, was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third and fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft. Detroit also released linebacker Devon Kennard, who started 15 games and finished with 58 combined tackles.

 

In addition to Okudah, the Lions drafted Notre Dame outside linebacker Julian Okwara with the 67th overall pick. They also went on to draft two defensive tackles in later rounds. The team further demonstrated their focus on the secondary by acquiring defensive back Duron Harmon from the New England Patriots and signing cornerback Desmond Trufant to a two-year deal.

 

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Trufant accumulated 13 solo tackles, seven passes defended, and four interceptions in 2019 for the Atlanta Falcons. Harmon finished with 19 solo tackles, five passes defended, and two interceptions of his own. Finally, the Lions signed Reggie Ragland, a linebacker who played for the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs last season.

 

Detroit has clearly filled the holes that were present in their roster. Now, they just have to develop their new young talent and allow their signees to build team chemistry. This team may not reach the playoffs in 2020, but they have a bright future ahead of them.

 

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