Seattle Seahawks star wide receiver DK Metcalf isn't buying the Jeff Okudah hype just yet.
He didn't call the Detroit Lions cornerback a scrub, but his meaning was clear when speaking with Seahawks beat writers Wednesday.
"There’s a safety over the top of him, so he’s really not locking people down," Metcalf said of the Lions' 2020 No. 3 overall pick. "But he’s a good corner.”
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson might have a different take; Okudah shadowed Jefferson across the field — even going into the slot, something he hadn't done before — to cover him on 32 plays, according to NextGenStats.
Jefferson was targeted on just six of those, catching three passes for 14 yards — his lowest single-game total in his three-season career.
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On Wednesday, Okudah discussed the versatility of Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and called them "two great receivers."
When asked what goes into playing against someone with Metcalf's size (6-foot-4, 236-pounds) and speed (4.33 40), Okduah said, "Get in the weight room (and) stretch your hamstrings out, it’s going to be a nice little battle."
Thursday, Okudah was informed of Metcalf's comments.
"Honestly, I"m not really overly concerned about it, I"m just focused on the game," he said. "I just try to keep the main thing the main thing and focus on the journey that I'm on right now."
From 'glimpses' to 'shutting people down'
That Okudah is tasked this season with receivers such as Metcalf, Jefferson, Philadelphia's DeVonta Smith and Washington's Terry McLauren is a slight victory for the Ohio State product
He was the first cornerback to be drafted No. 3 overall since fellow Buckeye Shawn Springs was taken by the Seahawks in 1997, and injuries limited his action over his first two seasons, including an Achilles tear in Week 1 last season.
With just 10 games played in 2020-21, critics began to wonder if he would develop into a No. 1 cornerback.
"I keep that in the back of my mind for sure, but at the end of the day I just want to make my people proud," Okudah said about his motivation. "But I’m definitely proud of where I’m at now from where I was at in the past."
Without game action for more than 300 days, he studied film on his iPad — in his car, at home or in front of his locker — and re-centered himself.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn saw the signs as early as this summer, but tried to not get ahead of himself until he saw it on Sundays.
"You see a player that from training camp, you start seeing glimpses of what he can be," Glenn said. "As the season (has) progressed, you start seeing him get more confident in who he is as a player. You start seeing some things he did when he was at Ohio State, as far as shutting people down."
But the first three weeks of his return have been encouraging.
"I can play cornerback in the NFL," Okudah said. "A lot of people thought I was a safety at one point, but I think I proved I can play cornerback."
'Erase somebody from the field'
The Lions appear to be inching Okudah toward a shutdown-corner role, though he's not asking for it specifically .
"Honestly, I’m just doing whatever the team asks of me right now," he said. "Just building that reputation of being someone who’s dependable, consistent week in and week out, that’s really one of my top priorities.
"But for sure, anytime you can put a one-on-one and erase somebody from the field, that obviously helps the coordinators with what they’re going to call. I feel like I’m capable, but I want to earn the trust of all my teammates first."
There are a few ways to earn that trust.
One is stepping up as a vocal leader in the secondary after the loss of captain Tracy Walker. Glenn said three Lions —Juju Hughes, Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu — are competing for Walker's starting job at safety this week in practice. Okudah now appears to be the best player on the Lions' back end.
He also needs to continue his growth and production on the field and show the Lions his shutdown abilities.
But Glenn is reserving judgment until the quarter mark of the season.
"I was always taught — it’s another Bill Cowher deal — you really don’t know who you are until after the fourth game because sometimes you have to adjust what you do as a defense, and that’s where we’re at right now," Glenn said. "Jeff is steady climbing to be one of those corners who can go out and play that way. And we’re going to figure that out.
"I was always taught, it’s another Bill Cowher deal, you really don’t know who you are until after the fourth game because sometimes you have to adjust what you do as a defense and that’s where we’re at right now," Glenn said. "Jeff is steady climbing to be one of those corners who can go out and play that way. And we’re going to figure that out.
"We have one more game to figure that out, and if he’s that type, it allows us to do a lot as far as taking other guys out and letting them go out there and play and let him be that one-on-one matchup."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Jeff Okudah will get to prove 'shutdown' status for Detroit Lions