Before the weekend, the Falcons had a major scare as Jeff Okudah went down with what seemed to be a potentially serious injury. The former third overall pick was carted off the field, leaving a wake of visually upset teammates. It seemed to be a grim reality, but the club received some good injury news.
According to Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Arthur Smith reported “very positive news” after an MRI, adding that he expects Okudah back at some point early in the regular season, which is absolutely stellar news.
“You just never know,” Smith said. “Positive news all things considered. We expect he’s got a great chance to be back in the really early part of the season. I just can’t give you whether that’s Week 1, 2, 3 but we feel really good for Jeff. All things considered.”
Atlanta traded for Okudah this offseason in a deal with Detroit, in which the Lions received a fifth-round pick. He was expected to start opposite A.J. Terrell on the boundary, but that will be put on the back burner for now.
Okudah hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty draft status from the 2020 cycle, but a lot of that can be attributed to injuries. He missed much of his rookie season with a core issue and then all of his sophomore campaign after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
He’s coming off a season in which he appeared in a career-high 15 games, though. A change of scenery seemed to benefit the Ohio State product, and he was prime to re-establish himself in the NFL this season under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.
Unfortunately, that will have to wait. With Okudah sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Falcons will have to replace his presence, which will likely be a combination of Mike Hughes and Tre Flowers.
The Falcons did an excellent job building depth in the cornerback room this offseason, so the team is in a much better position to handle the loss of a starter than they were last year.