Dan Campbell: Good Chance Lions’ Rookie Corner ‘Next Guy Up’

Ifeatu Melifonwu

Getty Ifeatu Melifonwu celebrates a play with his Lions' defensive teammates.

The Detroit Lions are dealing with the loss of top cornerback Jeff Okudah to an Achilles injury, and the focus now will be what players step up in order to account for his loss on the roster.

Whether or not there’s an addition from the outside, the Lions could have a player in cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu that they not only like, but are prepared to stick on the field consistently in the future.

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Speaking with the media on Monday, September 13, Campbell raved about Melifonwu after being asked about him specifically, and admitted the team has confidence in him after a solid camp period as well as lead into the season. As a result, he could have earned a look for the Lions as it relates to how to replace Okudah.

Detroit Lions Media Availability: Sept. 13 2021 | Dan CampbellWatch Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell meet the media Sept. 13, 2021. Subscribe to the Lions YT Channel: bit.ly/2OABzdx More Lions NFL Action: bit.ly/2oxtfjX #DetroitLions #Lions #NFL Keep up-to-date on all things Lions: Visit detroitlions.com/ Follow: twitter.com/Lions Follow: instagram.com/detroitlionsnfl/ Like: facebook.com/DetroitLions2021-09-13T18:18:14Z

“He’s been working hard, and he quietly has really improved. He’s another guy from spring who’s quietly had a good spring and a good camp. So there’s a good chance he’s probably the next guy up,” Campbell explained. “We’ve got two other guys in Bobby Price and (Jerry) Jacobs. So we’re going to put the best combination out there and see where we go and listen, it’s next man up. We’ve said it from day one. It doesn’t matter who’s in there, all that matters is who’s in there does what they’re asked to do and does it the very best that they can do it.”

Specifically, Campbell admitted that he has plenty of faith in the younger players that he referenced stepping up, no matter who they might be.

“There again, the guys that are still here are the guys we like. The only way they’re going to get better is if they play,” he said.

Melifonwu saw 12 snaps total in the game against the San Francisco 49ers and nearly picked off a pass in the game, so to hear the Lions might now be set to trust him is an interesting development. It will be interesting to see who the Lions choose to sign, and if Melifonwu will be a player that gets early love as it relates to this.

Lions Options to Replace Jeff Okudah

The Lions don’t have to look outside the team to replace Okudah, but it might make a lot of sense for them to add a veteran player due to the fact that their secondary is now very young and very inexperienced. Campbell did admit to the media that additions could be coming simply to help the Lions from a depth standpoint.

“Certainly we need to add someone just to help us on the overall roster. We’re looking into it, Brad (Holmes) is looking into it. That’s coming, it will probably be sooner rather than later. It will be someone who will help us with overall depth.”

Outside of familiar faces and veterans, it will be interesting to see how much the Lions rely on names like Melifonwu, Price or Jacobs. While many haven’t heard their names, it’s clear that the team likes what they see from the youngsters in practice in terms of play and fit.

Melifonwu Stats and Highlights

If the last name sounds familiar to fans, that’s because Ifeatu’s brother Obi Melifonwu played in the NFL recently as well. The older Melifonwu didn’t have nearly as much success, but that doesn’t mean the younger one can’t be great. Melifonwu has solid size at 6-3 and is the type of player who can be a better cornerback than some of the options that may go higher than him in the NFL Draft. In college, he put up 88 tackles, 3 interceptions, 19 passes defended and 1 sack. Melifowu might end up being one of the better cornerbacks that comes out of this draft process, and the Lions hope they will look smart to have nabbed him given their major needs at cornerback.

Here’s a look at some of Melifonwu’s best highlights:

Ifeatu Melifonwu 2020 Regular Season Highlights | Syracuse DBIfeatu Melifonwu proved that he had what it takes to compete at cornerback in the ACC in 2020. Melifonwu finished the campaign tied for 6th in the league in passes defended with 10 and 5th in the ACC with 9 breakups. The junior cornerback averaged 5 tackles per game to rank third in the conference among corners.…2021-02-24T02:39:50Z

The clips do show a player who has plenty of ability and could even play a starring role in the future for the Lions if he is able to put this training to good use on the field. The time to see if that could be the case might be rapidly approaching.

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