Allen Park – Jeff Okudah got greedy. The Detroit Lions cornerback thought he saw something before the snap, tried to jump the route he envisioned the receiver, and was badly burned by a deep ball in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend.
Okudah compared the bug to another type of burn in which a toddler puts his hand on a hot stove. And as the saying goes, he plans to learn from the mistake so that it doesn’t happen again.
“I think the more you play, the higher your football IQ will be,” said Okudah. “You learn when to take calculated risks. … That was one of those moments when I felt like it was really my own fault. I learned a lot from it and I think it will make me a better player in the future . “
Okudah’s coaches were disappointed with the outcome of the game and the fact that Okudah didn’t follow his pre- and post-snap keys, but one thing that no one has a problem with is the cornerback’s way of thinking in the sophomore year. He thought he had a chance to generate a takeaway and the Lions are trying to put that type of aggression on the defensive after the team struggled to generate sales for the past couple of seasons.
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Defensive Backs coach Aubrey Pleasant never wants his boys to be scared and afraid to take a chance to make a game because of what happens when they fail. But Pleasant also requires his boys to remain disciplined, true to the techniques they are taught on the practice field.
He calls the balance “controlled aggression”.
Trainer Dan Campbell is in step with his assistant in this philosophy.
“I want these guys to take it easy,” said Campbell. “Nobody wants to give up an explosive game. No head coach wants that for their defense, but if you ask me I would prefer him to be aggressive, hit him in the face and get to our work and do what you coached . ” do.
“At Okudah he felt like a dagger was coming, and he guesses,” said Campbell. “Just play your keys. Do what (Pleasant) taught you, what he taught you, and we’ll be fine. He’ll do that and as long as he does we won’t have a problem, but I’d rather be aggressive than conservative. “
In addition to maintaining his aggressiveness, another proven soccer lesson that Okudah has focused on this off-season is sharpening his short-term memory. It is vital that cornerbacks can mentally reset after a mistake.
Okudah admits that it hasn’t always been easy for him. He tends to take his mistakes on the field personally and both Pleasant and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have worked to get out of his system.
“I think you just have to look at each game as your own game, not try to put moves together, because that way you tend to have a snowball and avalanche effect when you start reinforcing bad play and that leads to another “said Okudah. “So just take it in the present moment, take each piece as a new piece. That’s the best approach, at least for me.”
Although it might take a few weeks to understand whether Okudah learned his lesson from giving up deep consummation, his ability not to let this poor game affect him beyond the moment shone brightly against Pittsburgh.
Prior to being eliminated in the second quarter, Okudah played a key role in a run stop near the goal line.
And when the Steelers tried to deep test Okudah a second time, this time a shot-to-end zone for former pro bowler JuJu Smith-cobbler.
“He tried to give me some sauce on the line,” said Okudah. “In the red zone they often teach us to play by the hands because when you look back, sometimes that ball comes out much faster than it does in the open field, so it can be placed in many different places. Really, just by your hands playing is best. At this point you are really tapping the recipient’s eyes and hands because the eyes tell the whole story. Often times, for the most part, the recipients tend to tilt their eyes to get a bit bigger. “
While his coaches will no doubt use the devoted deep accomplishment as a teaching moment, Okudah’s resilience is the greatest asset to the coaching staff.
“This is the NFL,” said Glenn. “He’s going to give up a game. He’s a good player, he’s trained hard. His eyes go bad and he gave up a game. But he played a lot of games. At some point we have to talk about the pieces he made, instead of the ones he didn’t make. “
The reality at Okudah is that he is still a young player who has a lot to learn. Pleasant noted that Okudah has a lot more to do at this level than it did at Ohio State, where he received the unanimous All-American award that got him ranked 3rd overall on last year’s draft.
“I feel good,” said Okudah. “I think I’m going into year two with a lot of confidence. To be able to do a lot of reps, see a lot of different things, and just have all the energy in Detroit has been really great for me. I’m happy me to year 2 whatever it has to offer. “