Lions ‘Hinting’ at Position Change for CB After Standout Rookie Season

Brian Branch

Getty Brian Branch looks on before a Detroit Lions game.

Detroit Lions cornerback Brian Branch started his NFL career with a bang, intercepting a pass from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and returning it for a touchdown in a season-opening win last season.

Now, after a standout rookie season at cornerback, the Lions could be considering a position change for Branch. Insider Colton Pouncy of The Athletic reported that the team has given indications that he could move to safety for the coming season, giving the secondary more versatility amid an influx of new talent.

Finding a Place for Brian Branch on the Field

As Pouncy noted, the Lions have made some key additions to the secondary this offseason including rookie cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. The team remains high on Branch, but could need to get creative to find ways to keep all the defensive backs on the field together, he wrote.

“As for the nickel spot, this is where things get interesting,” Pouncy wrote. “The Lions have hinted at the possibility of Brian Branch moving from nickel to safety. Now, that could just be a situational or part-time thing. At the same time, I think the staff will try to get their best five DBs on the field together. We know Branch is one, and his versatility could help facilitate a starting job for someone else. If Branch moves to safety, we could see someone like [Amik] Robertson — who was repping at nickel in Branch’s absence this spring — replace him.”

Pouncy noted that moving Branch to safety would give the Lions three starting-caliber safeties, with Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu also in the mix.

The 22-year-old Branch had a strong season after being taken in the second round last year, making 74 total tackles and one sack with three interceptions and 13 pass defenses. He finished fifth in AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting while helping to anchor an improved defense that helped the Lions reach the NFC Championship game.

Lions Still Face Some Questions in Secondary

The Lions made some big moves last offseason to shore up their struggling secondary, but the signings of Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson mostly fell flat as both suffered long-term injuries.

Moseley re-signed with the Lions, but he had not yet been able to practice with the team as he continued to recover from a torn ACL. Pouncy noted that he should be back by the start of training camp.

While Carlton Davis III is expected to take one of the starting cornerback spots, Pouncy noted that the depth chart remains open the rest of the way down.

“Elsewhere, though, the position is far from settled. Amik Robertson could play on the outside,” Pouncy wrote. “Emmanuel Moseley, expected back for training camp after tearing his ACL last October, was a talented outside option before the injury, and Brad Holmes essentially told us not to forget about him. And then there are the rookies — Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. If the season started today, my best guess would be Davis and Arnold as your outside starters.”

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