Lions: Oruwariye’s benching sent a message to the team

ALLEN PARK — When Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye was benched for the game at New England, it sent a message to the team. Basically, compete or sit.

Oruwariye had started three of the first four games, missing the contest against the Commanders with a back injury.

Detroit’s passing defense allows 261.0 yards per game, that’s 26th in the NFL. Of course, that’s not all on Oruwariye but part of it is. Hence the decision was made to sit him.

“I think it’s important that you do that as far as a team because now it sends a message to everybody on offense and defense,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “This game is about competing at the highest level every time you have to earn your keep in this league, there are no free passes.’’

In Week 3, Oruwariye was whistled for six penalties against the Vikings, but cleaned that up in the Week 4 loss to the Seahawks.

“This game is hard, especially at that position. When you look at it, over the course of the season you hear people say setback. I just think he’s had a hard time,’’ Glenn said. “I think Amani is still Amani. I just think some of the situations he’s been in and some of the flags that he’s had has made people look at him in a different way.’’

Glenn said it’s important that the coaches help him so he can get back on the field.

“I’m not going to rag on Amani. I still have high hopes for that player, I still think that player has a chance to be a top corner in this league, we’re going to work our (butts) off to make sure of that,’’ Glenn said.

Last season, Oruwariye started 14 games and finished with a career-high six interceptions. He’s still looking for his first pick this season.

The coordinator said they’re going to put his feet to the fire. 

“That’s who we are as far as a defense, everyone has to compete, everybody has to go out there and pull their weight and he wasn’t at that time,’’ Glenn said. “With coach Dan (Campbell) and the staff we made the change and he’s going to compete and get his job back again.’’

Glenn is pleased with Oruwariye’s response to the benching. 

“With Dan being confident to make that decision, I think it really sent the message, I really do. It kind of reminds me of my days with coach (Bill) Parcells – he wasn’t afraid to do that. It taught me a lesson also that you can’t be afraid to make a decision, you live with it and move on even if you have outsiders say what you should do and what you shouldn’t do you be confident in your decision you move on and do what’s best for the team and that’s what Coach Campbell did.’’

Five things to know about Lions CB Amani Oruwariye

While Friday was just the third day of training camp, already Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell sees a difference in Amani Oruwariye, the oldest cornerback on the roster at age 26. 

“I tell you what from this time last year, he feels like a guy who understands what he’s capable of. He understands what he’s good at, what he can do, what he needs to work on. He’s a pro right now, he’s practicing like a pro, he did in the spring,’’ Campbell said before the start of Friday’s practice. “There’s a comfort level and he’s very confident and it’s good to see.”

A big difference from a year ago is now the Lions — with Campbell in his second season — know what they have in Oruwariye.

“We feel like, alright it’s early in camp and all of that, he’s got to prove it again. He knows that and has to continue to improve, but we feel pretty good where he is in that spot. It was good to see him grow and develop at the rate he did. He was having a hell of a year before the injury, I would say he picked up right where he left off in the spring and even the first two days,’’ Campbell added.

Five things to know about Oruwariye early in training camp:

1. He embraces his role as a leader as the oldest corner on the roster and even noted that he has found one gray hair. “Agewise, there’s a lot of guys around my age, guys who have been here with me. Just from experience, I’ve played a lot with different coaches. I do feel a sense of responsibility to make sure the guys are ready to go and make sure everyone is prepared and working like a professional every single day,’’ Oruwariye said on Friday.

2. Oruwariye shared his reaction to Campbell calling him a pro. “I take pride in it, it means I come to work everyday and be the best teammate I can be everyday and try to be the best Amani I can be everyday for my teammates,’’ the corner said.

3. Last season Oruwariye was sidelined for the final three games with a thumb injury. He was missed. He led the Lions with six interceptions — no one else had more than one. Three of his picks came in the last five games he played. He was on a roll. “It was amazing. I was living a dream, making the plays I could make for the defense. Obviously we didn’t get the wins we wanted, but I’m hoping if I continue to have that production and I can rally the guys around me to continue building off that, we’ll start getting the Ws,’’ Oruwariye said

4. No one could be more pleased about the emphasis the team put on improving the pass rush in the offseason, including drafting Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick. “It’s amazing. Those guys just make it easier on us. Obviously we still have a job to do but knowing that we’ve got guys who can win the one-on-one battles up front consistently it’s going to affect our defense tremendously,’’ Oruwariye said. “It will affect how we see offenses, our timing of how routes develop because we know we only have to guard four seconds instead of five seconds. It’s everything,’’ Oruwariye said.

5. Either Will Harris or Jeff Okudah will likely start opposite Oruwariye when the season starts. Harris made the move from safety to corner during the 2021 season and Okudah’s 2021 season ended on opening day when he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. “Will stepped up huge for us last season, it’s hard to go unnoticed. He just is Mr. Consistent, Mr. Know-it-all. He’s played every position on the defense. He’s just out there making sure he can perfect his craft at corner, it’s new to him. I’m helping him out a lot. He’s learning and competing,’’ Oruwariye said.

“Jeff is just gaining that confidence to be out there and play and put together a good camp. I told him to take it one day at a time and obviously I’m still always there. If you need advice for anything, for things I see, talk to me, we can sit down and watch film. But for him it’s just gaining confidence and the courage to go out there and do what he does best. We all know what he’s capable of us, it’s just putting it out there.’’

NOTE: Lions training camp continues on Saturday. The team then has Sunday off. Monday will be the first day they’re in pads and also the first day camp is open to the general public.

Detroit Lions camp: Three draft picks among the early stand-outs

ALLEN PARK — After a week of training camp, three of the Detroit Lions draft picks have stood out.

That doesn’t mean the others will not contribute this season, but early on it’s clear that first-round pick tight end T.J. Hockenson (first round), linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (fifth round) have what it takes. 

All eyes have been on Hockenson since Day 1. No. 88 is so smooth for a rookie and appears to have developed quite a connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford. He makes the tough catches especially in the corner of the end zone on goal-line drills. He beats defenders in one-on-one drills. It’s early but there isn’t much to not like about the kid.

“He knows that he has a lot to learn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game, the guys got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,” coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field.”

The Lions were roundly criticized when they drafted Tavai in the second round out of Hawaii because no one else had him going that high. Didn’t matter. Tavai is exactly who they wanted and they got him. He snagged an interception this week from Stafford. Watch one practice and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off No. 51. Again, it’s early but he’s been impressive so far.

Oruwarije (in photo) has seen plenty of reps in camp with Darius Slay on the sidelines (non-football injury). 

“We all know what (Slay) can do, he’s a great player and so I just try to ask him as many questions as I can, I have to use my resources. He’s got so much experience and knowledge I’d be dumb to not ask him questions and learn some things I can take from his game I can take to mine.”

In fact, Oruwarije got some first-team reps on Thursday and grabbed his first interception on a ball intended for none other than Kenny Golladay. 

“Just kind of like being a little tighter, just play with my upper leverage and worked on the technique that (defensive backs) coach Brian Stewart teaches me, came down with the play,’’ Oruwariye said. Like it was that simple.