Lions CB Jeff Okudah needs reps as he returns from Achilles injury

Jeff Okudah has worked hard on getting his speed back after tearing his Achilles in the season opener a year ago.

The Lions cornerback traveled around the United States and ventured into Canada seeking out the best specialists to help get him back on the football field.

Friday night’s preseason opener could be a big step in the process. For many players coming back from a lengthy injury taking that first hit is big. But it’s more than that for Okudah who the Lions drafted with the third overall pick in 2020.

“That’s always big making that first play, but I think it’s getting out there and participating just being out there with the crowd’s energy. I think that will be big for me as well,’’ Okudah said after Wednesday’s training camp.

He said as far as physically he thinks everything has gone smoothly in training camp.

“I’m my toughest critic but trying not to be too hard on myself after not playing in 11 months,’’ Okudah said. 

The cornerback is listed behind Amani Oruwariye and Will Harris on the depth chart that coach Dan Campbell calls “unofficially official.”

“The way I approach it, I always feel like there’s competition so even when there wasn’t really a competition I always take everything as competition,’’ OKudah said. “I always demanded that out of myself.”

Campbell said they have no concern about Okudah’s Achilles.

“Physically he looks great. He needs reps. He needs reps, he needs to play, I mean that’s the thing that we can never lose sight of. I mean, he’s going into Year Three and he really hasn’t played. I mean he just hasn’t had significant playing time,’’ Campbell said.

In his rookie season Okudah struggled through a variety of injuries and only played nine games. In 2021 he was lost for the season in the opener.

Friday night’s preseason game should provide a clue about where Okudah stands with the regular season about a month away.

(The Lions open the preseason at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field.)

Lions competition for backup QB takes next step with preseason games

In his previous six NFL seasons Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff has never been in a quarterback room with the same three guys two years in a row — until now.

This training camp he’s working with David Blough and Tim Boyle once again. All three are 27 and get along fine on and off the field. 

“It’s been fun with those guys, they keep it light, they keep it fun, they’re both extremely competitive and it’s fun for me to have guys like that to be competitive on the field,’’ Goff said after Tuesday’s training camp practice.

While Goff has more starting experience (83 NFL games), he learns from both of them.

“They both have had their fair share of playing time and they’ve both played around really good quarterbacks as well so I’ll bounce things off them all the time,’’ Goff said.

Goff, who is entering his second season in Detroit, is expected to start Friday night’s preseason opener against the Falcons at Ford Field. But the game will be more important for Boyle and Blough who are vying for the backup role.

“I feel both of those guys had a good week last week — Boyle and Blough. I feel that they’re both better than they were in the spring and I’ll just say it’s still somewhat early in camp until we get these preseason games. I think that will tell a lot for us,’’ Lions coach Dan Campbell said on Tuesday.

If Goff went down, Campbell said he feels both of them could step in and take over the offense.

“I think they’re both different in what they do. Blough is a little scrappier, he’s going to find a way. That’s what he’s about. He can certainly run the offense,’’ Campbell said.

“Boyle has got all the gifts, all the traits and he’s consistently doing it. Again, he’s got to do this in preseason games. Let’s see where he’s progressed from last year,’’ the coach added.

Last season, Boyle was No. 2 and got three starts. Blough had five starts in 2019 and none last season.

“Getting some game reps last year allowed me to settle into my routine, pre-snap. Every play I feel like I have a certain checklist for pre-snap. Playing those games last year helped me formulate that process,’’ Boyle said. “I feel really comfortable, I love the offense, I love where we’re heading. It’s been a good camp so far.’’

While preseason games aren’t as crucial for guys who have nailed down starting roles Blough and Boyle know it’s their time to prove themselves.

“I’m excited. Every opportunity you get whether it’s the preseason or regular season game to go and play against other guys who have the same dream we do,’’ Blough said. “You want the ball in your hands with two minutes to go to win the game. I think that’s how a lot of the preseason games come down, it will be fun on Friday night.’’

Each game – even if it’s preseason – provides a learning experience for all three

When Goff is in the game, the backup provides another set of eyes.

“I think there’s a lot of things that go into it,’’ Blough said. “It’s seeing looks. I got to see Chase Daniel do it for a year as the second guy (in 2020). He was as prepared as our starter (Matthew Stafford) was.’’

Campbell said it’s too early to know if they will keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster. The decision will be more about the numbers at the other positions.

Five things to know about Lions’ 20-16 loss to Falcons

Since Day One, Lions coach Dan Campbell has said they had a thin margin needed for a win. It has proven out all season. No more so than on Sunday when quarterback Tim Boyle threw an interception on a first-and-goal play with just seconds left. Kalif Raymond was the intended receiver surrounded by three Falcons’ defenders. He never had a chance. 

Boom. Falcons win 20-16 at Atlanta. 

The Lions (2-12-1) were coming off a huge win over the Cardinals and hung close throughout the game, but could not hold on for the win.

Five things to know: 

1. Coordinator Aaron Glenn has the defense ready each week no matter who he has on the active roster. On the Falcon’s first possession — 6 snaps — the Lions sacked quarterback Matt Ryan three times. Quite the nice hello. With so many starters missing, never have seen a next-man-up philosophy work so well. Of course, it’s probably good there are only two more games because he might be running out of bodies.

2. The Lions have been a different team since Campbell took over the play-calling following the Thanksgiving game. Good mix of run and pass, aggressive when it needs to be. With Jared Goff out with COVID, Boyle was ready to go. He completed his first six passes. His worst pass was his final one – the interception. Boyle finished 24 of 34 for 187 yards, 1 touchdown and the interception. “I thought he played fast, efficient, clean and certainly gave us a chance. He wasn’t a hindrance to us at all,” Campbell said. The offense ate up 7:34 on its opening drive ending with a field goal. It was similar to the 8:50 opening drive against the Cardinals.

3. Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown has produced 8-plus receptions in 4-straight games, joining Odell Beckham Jr. as the NFL’s only rookie wide receivers in the Super Bowl era to have such a streak. Pretty nice company. St. Brown joins WR Calvin Johnson Jr. as the only Lions to ever post 8-plus receptions in 4-straight games. He finished Sunday with nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball twice for 19 yards.

4. Who doesn’t love trick plays? The fake punt in the first half, set up Boyle’s 20-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown. Special teams has been solid all season. Rookie kicker Riley Patterson is perfect on field goal attempts. He kicked three in the loss – two for 27 yards, one for 36 yards.

5. This final stretch of the season is not about draft picks, it’s about trying to win every game and develop the young players. With so many injuries, guys like running back Craig Reynolds – are getting plenty of snaps. The Lions are showing positive signs for next season. Campbell has made it clear he is not concerned about the draft at this point. So no more belly-aching, OK?

UP NEXT: Lions at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Jan.2.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)