The 2022 season will be an ultra important campaign for third-year pro Jeff Okudah.
The 2020 No. 3 overall pick has played in just 10 total games since entering the professional ranks, and has largely struggled. He's amassed only 51 combined tackles, three passes defensed and a lone interception, and has played in just one game since the Dan Campbell-Brad Holmes regime took over in Detroit a season ago.
Okudah, an Ohio State product, suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury in Week 1 of the 2021 campaign against the San Francisco 49ers, a 41-33 loss for the Lions. It further stunted the cornerback's development, and now there's a chance he doesn't start for Campbell & Co. in 2022.
In fact, on Tuesday, he was listed behind converted safety Will Harris on the Lions' very first depth chart of training camp, which coincides with the team's preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons Friday.
“I would say it’s officially unofficial,” Campbell told reporters Wednesday, in reference to Okudah being placed behind Harris on the depth chart. “I mean Will started for us at the end of the year. I mean, he was our starter. So, why would he not be up there at No. 1?"
Okudah and Harris have produced similar results in camp so far, with uneven play a common theme.
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For instance, on Tuesday, Okudah intercepted Detroit starting signal-caller Jared Goff in the end zone, but also was beaten by Kalif Raymond for a touchdown that was thrown by backup quarterback David Blough.
Subsequently, it'd be no surprise to see Okudah and Harris continue to battle it out for the starting spot opposite Amani Oruwariye in the Lions' defensive backfield, and throughout the entirety of the preseason.
"Way I’ve always approached it, I always feel there’s a competition, even when there wasn’t really competition,” Okudah expressed to reporters Wednesday. “I always take everything as competition. I just demanded that out of myself. So, whether there was competition or whether there wasn't, I would have the same mindset.”
Despite the fact that Okudah's put together a mixed bag of results since returning from his Achilles' ailment, he feels like he's on the right track in his preparation for the upcoming season.
"Yeah, I think everything's coming together pretty smooth," Okudah said. "This week's felt pretty good. So, I mean, I'm my toughest critic. But, I'm not trying to be too hard on myself, not playing in 11 months and being out here after the Achilles. So, I'm happy where I'm at, but at the same time, I'm still demanding more of myself every single day to get to that next level."