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.