DeMeco Ryans talks CB2 battle between Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson

DeMeco Ryans is one for giving out second chances, especially for players who fit his physical “SWARM defensive mindset.

It’s part of the reason why Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson signed one-year deals with the Houston Texans this offseason.

Okudah, the former No. 3 pick back in 2020, and Henderson, the No. 9, will compete for first-team reps opposite breakout corner Derek Stingley Jr. during OTAs this month. Neither looked perfect during Tuesday’s media session, but Ryans isn’t looking for a highlight play.

His focus is on finding the upside and honing in on what made the duo stand out coming out of college.

“You see elite movers,” Ryans said of Okduah and Henderson following a practice. “You see why these guys were top-(10) picks. They have the movement skills, they are big, fast, long corners that can run with anybody, and they have had some ups and downs in their careers.”

Okudah, an All-American at Ohio State, is coming off his best season with the Falcons after three rocky years with the Lions. He started 11 games for Atlanta and totaled three pass breakups.

During drills, he broke up a pass intended for Robert Woods while working with the first-team defense during team drills. Okudah also got beat on a go-route earlier in the day against John Metchie during 7-on-7 drills.

Henderson, who spent one season with the Jaguars before being traded to Carolina, might be more versatile. He spent time in the nickel and on the boundary amid his 22 starts from 2022-23.

In two-plus years with the Panthers, Henderson totaled three interceptions and 16 pass deflections. Ryans said both have been attentive since joining the roster, showing every practice and offseason workout since signing with the team.

“This is their third team and short careers, but as I have told those guys, I don’t care what happened in the past,” Ryans said. “You can wipe the slate clean, it really doesn’t matter, like how can you come out and help us?”

Okudah and Henderson won’t be the only two battling for first-team reps. Second-round pick Kamari Lassiter will also work drills on the outside once acclimated to the defense.

Lassiter, the team’s first pick in last month’s draft, might begin his career as a nickel defender given his frame. During his time at Georgia, the 6-foot defender played both spots while helping Georgia win back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire