The Falcons made a pair of noteworthy trades this offseason. On the first day of free agency, the Patriots sent Jonnu Smith to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick. More recently, the club acquired Jeff Okudah from the Lions in exchange for a Day 3 pick. Smith’s impact and role in the offense are clearer than his counterpart’s.
Despite the disappointing career in Detroit, Okudah looks forward to his time in Atlanta.
“I would say a little bittersweet from the standpoint of the relationships that you form playing for a team for three years,” Okudah said. “But I was definitely excited about the opportunity to have a fresh start here in Atlanta. And [it’s] kind of an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.”
The former 3rd overall pick was pretty much sidelined for much of his first two seasons in the league due to injury but made it through the 2022 campaign healthy. The true test of a man is his resilience. When the chips are stacked against you, what will you do? Okudah isn’t ignoring his checkered career so far in the NFL. He’s using those lessons in hopes of turning things around in Atlanta.
“I approach situations with my best foot forward and sometimes things don’t work out how you intend to,” Okudah said. “So, take those lessons and move on and take those lessons and apply them to a new situation — which is here. So, [I’m] excited for this new chapter.
“To see those lows and learn the resilience that comes from that, going through adversity, kind of lets you know what kind of man you are.”
The Falcons parted ways with Casey Hayward recently with a failed physical designation. The veteran was a starter for the defense last year before injuries ended his season prematurely. I don’t know it, but I believe the timing of the release and failed physical are indicators the team didn’t want to cut him; they had no choice.
Now, Jeff Okudah will likely be thrust into a starting role opposite A.J. Terrell, barring Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez being the Falcons’ 8th overall pick. The Ohio State product hasn’t realized his full potential, primarily due to injuries but also his own inconsistencies.
Hopefully, a change of scenery does wonders for Okudah’s development. If he’s able to grow in Atlanta, he could become a part of the team’s long-term plans. The schematic fit is clear, but the ability to produce is unknown.
“They’re pretty excited about my ability,” Okudah said, “what I’m able to do in man-to-man, press coverage, and how it’ll complement the scheme.”
Photographer: Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire
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