When I close my eyes and day dream, I imagine what it would be like to have Darius Slay and Jeff Okudah playing cornerback together on the same team.
However, like two ships in the night, they passed each other. Slay was traded to the Eagles, and of course, Okudah was selected No. 3 overall in the 2020 draft by the Lions.
However, I still can't help myself ... I'm still day dreaming.
This new defensive scheme, which features so much man-to-man coverage, would have been remarkably better had the Lions found a way to keep Slay.
Good cornerbacks are a big-time premium in the National Football League to begin with, and it utterly baffles me that the Lions got rid of Slay.
It is bad enough to have a new defensive scheme that is tentative and non-aggressive by design. But, to not keep one of the team's best defensive players is even more baffling to me.
Athletic, aggressive and physical corners with confidence are at a premium in schemes that feature a lot of man, especially on a team that does not have any good starting safeties that can or want to provide any help in the deep halves of the football field.
When Detroit's defense plays a single-high safety look -- forget about the safety -- the corners are really out on their own, and Slay knew how to handle that.
I liked Slay a lot when I evaluated him for eight games last season.
Few players resonate with me to begin with, but Slay was one of the players on the Lions that did.
And the longer-toothed Slay would have been one heck of a mentor for the blue-chip rookie.
Slay could have taught Okudah the finer points of the position. He could have taught him the little things.
Slay and Okudah both show similar characteristics and traits, much like an older lion and a younger one. But, the difference is experience.
The younger lion looks eager and like he is guessing, while the older lion, well, he looks patient, polished and oh so smooth.
Slay could have taught Okudah the finer points about how to gain leverage on routes at the pro level and how to use his hands to ride the coattails of receivers while letting them naturally guide him to the ball.
Slay and Okudah are both aggressive, but Slay could have taught him a lot about the feel of the game.
Okay, okay, I am done day dreaming.
Slay is gone, and Okudah now has to rely on the school of hard knocks to cut his teeth on.
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That leaves me with just one question: Can Okudah be as good as Darius Slay?
Yes. He will actually be better than Slay, in time.
Right now, Slay is the better of the two, so I do not want anybody to tell me in the comments that Slay is better and to talk about how much Okudah has struggled early on.
I agree. I have, in fact, written another article about Okudah's struggles in his first three games.
However, as my favorite saying goes, "Vision is the art of seeing what's invisible to others." And that is what scouting is - - the art of projecting.
Slay is good, but Okudah is better.
Not taking anything away from Slay, but Okudah is more athletically gifted and he is far more dynamic.
Okudah was a high first-rounder, and Slay was taken in the second. And that is exactly the same way it will come out in the end.
It will just take time.
Right now, Slay knows how to make it work for him, while Okudah is playing receivers like he is still at Ohio State.
Dorothy, we are not in Ohio anymore.
The NFL game is faster, more complex and it requires polished technique because it is a higher level of competition.
Said another way, Okudah used to be a big fish in a little pond, but not anymore.
It is going to take time for Okudah to learn the pro game. But, make no mistake, once he has the experience, he will prove to be the better of the two.
One day, Okudah will also be long in the tooth.
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