Five things to know as winless Lions face Philadelphia Eagles

Still looking for their first win, the Detroit Lions might have a fighting chance on Sunday facing the Philadelphia Eagles (2-5) who have lost five of their last six games.

A win any week would be welcome, but perhaps the timing of this one would provide an extra benefit. After Sunday’s game at Ford Field, the Lions will have their bye week.

“It would be big. It would be. Knowing that you get a win and now we’re going to be able to heal up and rest and kind of reset our clock if you will, get everything back mentally, physically, emotionally, I think it would be big,’’ coach Dan Campbell said on Friday.

This bunch — those who have remained healthy — could use a boost after a few close calls in the first seven weeks. Going into the bye week with a win is always a goal no matter the team’s record.

“I think you kind of – you’re turning over a new leaf if you will. It’s validating what you’re doing and where you’re going. So, certainly it would be big, but this isn’t some easy opponent. This is a good football team. They still have good football players over there,’’ Campbell said. “… This is not going to be easy, but to answer it, yeah, it would be huge.”

Five things to watch:

1. Darius Slay will be making his return to Detroit as the Eagles top cornerback. Now that Matt Patricia has moved on, Slay is eager to come back to the Motor City. You’ve got to imagine he’ll be extra fired up. Slay has two interceptions this season, both against the Panthers.  “He’s playing good ball, man. He’s playing at a high-level,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “You can see why he’s a two-time Pro Bowler and all of that. He is everything that you want in a corner.” Too bad Patricia didn’t like him. 

2. The defense can’t let quarterback Jalen Hurts out of the pocket — he’s the Eagles’ leading rusher with 361 total rushing yards. He’s also been efficient with 10 passing touchdowns against just four interceptions. “You’ve always got to make sure you’re on your toes with this player. Even if it’s a close game, he’s one of those guys that has the potential to pull it off. We have to make sure that we’re all good in that area and understand who he is and what he’s done over his career,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “The second thing is his ability to run with the ball. You just said it, he has over 350 yards rushing, so we have to be able to contain that and make sure that he doesn’t get out of the pocket.’’

3. Jared Goff has completed 66.1% of his passes but most of them are short, not many downfield. “If you’re not getting those opportunities, you have to figure out other ways to generate explosives. Up until the Cincinnati game, we were one of the top-10 teams in the League in explosive plays,’’ Lynn said. “There are other ways you can generate explosives other than throwing it down the field, but there is something that can back people up a little bit and give us a little more space underneath if we can get that done.”

4. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond has stepped up in recent games with six catches in each of the last two contests. Lynn said he didn’t know much about Raymond before he was signed. “But when we got him in training camp, he’s impressed us from the first day he got here. We were like, ‘Why are the Titans letting him out of there?’ But, he’s done nothing but just make the most out of his opportunities,’’ Lynn said. Keep an eye on him to get even more targets. “Just his route savvy and his ability to get open and he doesn’t let his size come into play at all because he separates so well,’’ Lynn said.

5. Special teams play has been solid but really stood out at the Rams with two fake punts and an onside kick. Teams coordinator Dave Fipp gets much of the credit but he tested positive for COVID-19 this week even though he is vaccinated. While unable to be with the team, Campbell said Fipp has been coaching from home with Jeff Modkins (special teams assistant) and Don Muhlbach (assistant special teams) filling in. “It’s a good core unit, and so they take it serious and they kind of regulate themselves a little bit, too. Like, you can tell there was a little bit more ownership in it like, ‘Alright, look man, Fipp’s not here. Let’s get this right.’ It’s been good. It still stinks, especially this weekend I know for Fipp. I’m sure he would want this, but yet he’s still here in spirit and he’s up there,’’Campbell said.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Eagles 24

Detroit Lions draft CB Jeff Okudah who says his technique is his best asset

Cornerback was one-year starter at Ohio State

Jeff Okudah, the Lions first-round draft pick, says his best asset is his technique.

“I try to sharpen my sword every chance that I can I get,’’ Okudah said on a media conference call late Thursday night.

The 6-foot-1 cornerback, a one-year starter at Ohio State, was a natural fit for the Lions who had traded away Darius Slay to the Eagles.

Okudah, who is from Texas, was the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft on Thursday night following Joe Burrow who went to Cincinnati and Chase Young who was drafted by the Washington Redskins. 

“It was a feeling I can’t explain. All the hard work, finally I’m getting a chance to get my name called. It was really something I’m going to remember forever,’’ Okudah said.

He became the first cornerback that the Lions have drafted in the first round since 1998 when they selected Terry Fair.

“He’s very aggressive at the line of scrimmage. He’ll play with his hands. He’ll stay square. He’s patient. There’s not a lot of panic down field on some of the shots, really good in transition, has good makeup speed,” coach Matt Patricia said on a Zoom call with WJBK-Fox 2. “Just really overall, hard-working, tough kid, loves to tackle and really just loves the game. He loves to work at the game. Loves to just study every single week. He was outstanding with his recall on his opponents and things like that. Just knew that we had a kid that we thought would be a really good player for us.”

Okudah knew the Lions had interest but didn’t know for certain where he would land.

“I wasn’t really sure of anything coming into tonight because I went into the draft with an open mind, I know a lot of things happen on draft night that are out of your control,’’ Okudah said.

He thinks he can be a good fit in the Lions’ defense, which was ranked 31st in 2019, thanks to his background at Ohio State.

“At Ohio State we played a bunch of coverages. We played Cover 1, Cover 3 and some Cover 4,’’ Okudah said. “I think my background of playing a bunch of defenses. I’m pretty confident I can go in there and be able to learn the defense.’’ 

It’s going to be all different this spring with the possibility of no team workouts due to the coronavirus shutdowns. Even training camp and the season are question marks.

He wants to learn from veteran corner Desmond Trufant who was signed by Detroit as a free agent.

“I want to be around him a lot, I want to soak up everything he knows, things he wishes he could have done differently, I want to use his trial and testimonies to maybe avoid going through some of the same things,’’ Okudah said.

He was known at Ohio State as being studious and prepared. 

On SiriusXMNFL when asked if he was ready to be a lock-down corner for the Lions, Okudah said: “It’s definitely a big challenge. I’m just ready to go into that locker room, begin to earn my teammates’ respect and that’ll be the first step. We’ll go from there after that.’’

He can make an immediate impact, but the Lions will have a chance to work him in slowly since they signed Trufant.

Remember, Darius Slay only started four of the 13 games he played as a rookie. He wasn’t Big Play Slay right out of the gate. Obviously it didn’t mean the Lions had given up on him, but rather they gave him time to soak it all in. 

Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to learn in the NFL, but there’s no reason to think that Okudah is not up to the task. 

“It’s a crazy feeling being drafted that high. The Detroit Lions think a lot about me, I think it’s up to me to return that and give them all I have, go to work every single day with my teammates and be the best player I can be,’’ Okudah said.

The Lions will have three picks on Friday night in the second and third rounds — 35th overall (second), 67th overall (third) and 85th overall (from the Eagles.) Friday night’s festivities start at 7 p.m. The fourth through seventh rounds begin at noon on Saturday.

Five reasons the Detroit Lions will draft cornerback Jeff Okudah at third overall

Lions GM Bob Quinn has pulled a few surprises in his first four drafts with the Detroit Lions.

He opted for tight end T.J. Hockenson a year ago who was not a popular mock draft pick for the eighth overall pick. In 2018 offensive tackle Frank Ragnow was his top pick at 20th overall. In 2017, he drafted Jarrad Davis at 21st overall and in his first-ever draft in Detroit Taylor Decker got the nod with the 16th pick.

So what does Quinn have planned for this draft which starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday?

Good question. He has never drafted this high — the Lions own the No. 3 overall pick, along with eight other picks.

Cornerback Jeff Okudah seems to be the popular pick for the Lions in the first round. That doesn’t mean Quinn will necessarily draft him, but he certainly looks like the top contender in that spot.

Here are five reasons the Lions will draft Okudah:

1. The cornerback has the ideal size — he’s 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds — and the Ohio State credentials. He is set to become the 14th Buckeyes’ cornerback to be drafted in the first round since 1991. He’s also got speed. Scouts say he’s exceptionally quick and can close in on the ball. Face it, the kid has it all.

2. Quinn wants an impact player with that third overall pick. “We have enough guidance in that range that we think we can do that. … Our goal is to get impactful players throughout the draft, whether they’re starters in the middle rounds or just backup and role players and special teams players later in the draft. Our goals haven’t changed, the circumstances have obviously,’’ Quinn said in his pre-draft press conference via Zoom.

3. With the trade of Darius Slay to the Eagles, the Lions have a big need at cornerback. They signed free agent corners Desmond Trufant and Tony McRae. Trufant is not a match for Slay one-on-one. 

4. It’s not common to draft a cornerback early. In the past 19 drafts only five cornerbacks have been drafted in the top five. Quinn said he had no problem with doing so (he wasn’t talking about a specific player) if the prospect was worth the pick. “If we go back to free agency a year ago, we signed Justin Coleman to play nickel and we paid him like a starter because we feel like you need three starting level corners to have a productive defense. So, why teams have shied away, I can’t really answer that. You have to ask the teams that have passed. I’ve never been this high in the draft to experience that,’’ Quinn said. 

5. Okudah is the top of the deep class at cornerback. CBSSports.com says, “(He’s) the best coverage CB in this class and it’s not even close.’’ If Quinn doesn’t grab him with the third overall pick, he’ll have a chance to draft corners later in the draft. But Okudah is a game-changer and could step in right away. Remember Slay only started four of 13 games he played in his rookie season. He wasn’t Big-Play Slay out of the gate, but turned into one of the best in the NFL. That’s exactly what could happen with Okudah.