Seahawks WR DK Metcalf On Lions CB Jeff Okudah: 'Not Really Locking People Down' – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – Through the first three weeks of the season, few players have shown greater improvement than Lions third-year cornerback Jeff Okudah. After missing most of last season with an injury, the former top-five draft pick has found his groove covering the likes of Eagles receiver Devonta Smith and Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson.
But as he prepares to face off against Okudah next Sunday in Detroit, Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf had an interesting take on his upcoming opponent prior to Wednesday's practice. When asked about what he's seen on film from the former Ohio State star, while he respects the young corner's ability, he wasn't ready to anoint him a shutdown defender either.
"He's got a safety behind him, so he's not really locking people down," Metcalf bluntly assessed. "But he's a good corner."
In a follow-up question, Metcalf again was asked about Okudah's strengths and immediately flipped the question back to the reporter, responding, "I guess you gotta watch film. That's just my opinion."
Okudah, who entered the NFL as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, struggled as a rookie for the Lions. Per Pro Football Focus, he allowed 579 yards on 38 receptions with quarterbacks posting a 112.0 passer rating and 76 percent completion rate when targeting him. In the season opener last September, he tore his Achilles tendon, ending his sophomore campaign abruptly after a single game.
But after a strenuous, challenging rehab, Okudah has enjoyed a sensational third season thus far. Seeing plenty of snaps across from Smith in a 38-35 loss to Philadelphia, he didn't yield a single catch and produced a pass breakup on his only target covering him. The next week, he limited Washington's Terry McLaurin to two receptions for 22 yards on four targets.
Then last week against the Vikings, Pro Football Focus credited Okudah with limiting Jefferson to two receptions for nine yards on four targets and the rising defender also produced a pass breakup on one of those plays in coverage against the two-time Pro Bowler, taking another big step forward in his year three breakout.
From Metcalf's perspective, and as evidenced in this excellent film breakdown from Shawn Syed of the Daily Norseman, however, Okudah benefited immensely from the Lions scheming for him to play aggressive press coverage against Jefferson while having at least one safety over the top as support. For the most part, the plan worked, though the Vikings eventually took advantage of other matchups created by the attention dedicated to their star receiver, including scoring a game-winning touchdown with K.J. Osborn coming wide open against busted coverage.
So far this season, Metcalf's numbers haven't been on par with his previous production when he became one of just five receivers all-time to post at least 200 receptions, 3,100 receiving yards, and 26 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Playing in his first year without Russell Wilson throwing passes to him, he has 16 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's first three games, averaging career-lows with 8.4 yards per reception and 45 receiving yards per game.
With that said, Metcalf had his best game of the season in a loss to the Falcons last weekend, registering five receptions for 64 yards and snagging a 23-yard touchdown from quarterback Geno Smith. Facing a Lions defense that ranks last in the NFL in scoring allowing 31 points per game, he will look to build off of that stellar performance with Okudah likely seeing extensive action lined up across from him.
What will be interesting, of course, is whether or not Detroit deploys a similar defensive strategy in Week 4. With another talented receiver in Tyler Lockett across from Metcalf and the success Minnesota found in the second half exposing coverages dedicated towards eliminating one player on the outside, Okudah has bulletin board material to work with and may have a chance to show what he can do on an island pitted against Seattle's most dynamic weapon.
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