The Atlanta Falcons debut for cornerback Jeff Okudah will have to wait.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith officially ruled out Okudah for the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Okudah didn’t practice this week because of an ankle injury.
In fact, he hasn’t practiced since needing a cart to leave the field due to the ankle ailment he suffered on August 4.
Smith, though, held out hope that the cornerback would dress in Week 1. On Wednesday, Smith told reporters that Okudah “is getting close” and “ahead of where” he expected to see him in his rehab.
The Falcons will miss Okudah, but joker Cordarrelle Patterson and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge could still play. Patterson and Hodge both returned to practice this week. Each are both considered questionable.
Cornerback Mike Hughes also returned to practice this week. With Okudah sidelined, Hughes could play a more significant role. Tre Flowers may also see more snaps opposite A.J. Terrell.
While the Falcons won’t be at full strength in the secondary, they will be facing a depleted Panthers receiving core. Wide receiver D.J. Clark will not play and fellow wideout Adam Thielen is questionable for Carolina.
Atlanta acquired Okudah for a fifth-round pick in April. Injuries are nothing new for the fourth-year cornerback. He missed 25 games over three seasons with the Detroit Lions because of several different ailments.
In 25 starts, he posted 124 combined tackles, including 6 tackles for loss with the Lions. He had 10 pass defenses and 2 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, as well.
When Okudah suffered his ankle injury in August, the initial response was it was going to be very serious. Although he will miss Week 1, it does sound as though he will be back sooner rather than later.