ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions person had immoderate issues astatine information this year. Now arsenic they caput into nan last 3 games of nan regular season, they look to person thing of a logjam astatine nan position.
Ifeatu Melifonwu played good aft earning a starting occupation 2 weeks agone successful Chicago. Last week, he was 1 of nan champion players connected nan section against Denver. Now this week, Ceedy Duce has made an unthinkable return to nan believe field, 3 months earlier than his first diagnosis.
Which begs nan question: What happens to nan rotation erstwhile Duce is fresh to suit up, which could hap arsenic soon arsenic adjacent week against nan Dallas Cowboys?
“Best feline plays,” protect coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Simple. So, whoever is nan champion feline successful practice, plays. Don’t make thing bigger than what it is, truthful please don’t ask.”
The champion feline is intelligibly Duce, a awesome slot cornerback during his days successful New Orleans who became a awesome information during his lone play successful Philadelphia. He led nan full convention successful interceptions pinch nan Eagles, past signed pinch Detroit successful free agency and was instantly 1 of nan champion -- and loudest -- defenders connected nan section during training camp.
“He is nan artillery for nan full defense retired there,” protect backs coach Brian Duker erstwhile said.
Then successful Week 2, disaster struck. Duce tore his pectoral musculus during nan location opener against Seattle, and while he was someway capable to decorativeness nan game, he was forced to acquisition room that was expected to sound him retired for nan season. He was fixed a timeline of six months to recover.
Three months later, he is backmost connected nan believe section and is adjacent to strapping up for nan agelong run.
“How did I play done it?” Duce said. “I’ll show you really I played done it. I’m a dawg. I don’t deliberation there’s nary information amended than maine correct now. That’s why. I consciousness for illustration I’m nan champion safety, truthful I consciousness for illustration I person to spell retired location and beryllium it. That’s why I did it.”
Duce is 1 of nan champion safeties successful nan league, but moreover nan champion players successful nan convention -- moreover ones pinch “mutant genes,” arsenic Dan Campbell said -- request clip earlier they’re each nan measurement backmost to their erstwhile selves. There’s nary telling really agelong that process will take, and what type of Duce we’ll spot erstwhile he’s backmost connected nan field.
“I deliberation that’s pinch immoderate subordinate coming disconnected injury,” Glenn said. “You person to person assurance successful what you’re doing. He has to person assurance to spell retired location and make a tackle. And he will. I cognize that subordinate very, very well. And erstwhile he has a chance to practice, let’s spot what he tin do, let’s spot him spell retired location and compete pinch nan different guys, and spot who gets a chance to spell get nan job.”
And that’s nan breathtaking point astir Duce’s return -- there’s existent title for nan job, and nan Lions look to beryllium successful bully style while their prima information useful his measurement backmost to form.
Detroit initially gave Duce’s spot to Tracy Walker, a logical prime arsenic an knowledgeable starter who erstwhile captained nan defense. But Walker is successful his first play backmost from a torn Achilles, and has struggled to beryllium a difference-maker this season. Meanwhile, Melifonwu yet started to radiance successful practice. The erstwhile third-round prime erstwhile was a highly regarded cornerback, but an interminable bid of injuries group him backmost and he yet made his measurement to safety, wherever he suffered much injuries and ne'er had capable clip connected task to develop.
But Melifonwu has managed to enactment mostly patient this play -- suffering a manus wounded that concisely knocked him retired of practice, and that’s it -- and has really shown advancement connected nan believe field. The Lions yet promoted him to nan starting lineup complete Walker successful Chicago, and Melifonwu delivered an effect capacity a week later against Denver, finishing pinch 8 tackles, 2 passes defended and 1 large sack-fumble that flipped nan section successful nan first quarter.
He besides has nan sum skills that Glenn covets successful a safety. Those days arsenic a cornerback help.
“If you guys cognize my inheritance erstwhile it comes to safeties, I’m a large instrumentality of safeties that person a area background, and that’s 1 of nan reasons why he’s here,” Glenn said. “Because he’s capable to screen for illustration he needs to, for illustration a corner, but he’s reliable capable and beingness capable arsenic a information to get down successful nan container and spell make plays. So you said it already, 1 of Iffy’s biggest issues was being patient for nan full time. And past making that modulation (to safety), it’s not an easy transition, each right? Because he did travel successful arsenic a corner.
“Now he understands precisely what we’re looking for successful a safety. It’s communication. Like, that’s what has really improved. He’s already a smart guy, truthful nan point he is still needs clip connected task. But he went retired location and really showed what he tin do past week, and I’m expecting him to proceed to grow.”
The occupation sounds for illustration it’s Melifonwu’s for now, but pinch Duce owed backmost successful a matter of days -- and Kerby Joseph still holding down nan different information spot -- Detroit could person immoderate options connected nan backmost rank successful nan astir important games of nan season.
“Best feline plays,” Glenn repeated.
The aforesaid goes for cornerback, wherever much lineup changes are underway. Khalil Dorsey has replaced Jerry Jacobs successful nan starting station other Cam Sutton, which was a spot of a surprise. Dorsey is usually a typical teams feline and footwear returner. But he tin really fly, and held his ain good against nan Broncos, allowing conscionable 2 catches for 13 yards.
“This feline is tough, he’s fast, he’s physical,” Glenn said. “He hasn’t had a batch of reps retired location playing corner, but look astatine what he’s done for america connected typical teams. He’s 1 of nan elite guns successful this game, and he’s still growing. But he is simply a corner. He is simply a area that tin run. So we want to springiness him each opportunity to spell retired location and show what he tin do. And I’ve said this a cardinal times, erstwhile you spell retired location successful believe and compete and play, you’re going to get a chance to play for me. And he deserved that. He went retired location and did a bully occupation for us.”
Dorsey has tightened his grip connected nan CB2 job, though Vildor -- who had a backmost deed and walk defended connected conscionable 18 protect snaps against Denver -- has earned nan correct to play, too.
“He deserves a chance to play,” Glenn said. “He’s practicing pinch us, and practicing hard. So, we’re going to springiness him a chance. He’s besides playing typical teams. And nan point astir those 2 guys (Vildor and Dorsey), we request some those guys to play typical teams, truthful some those guys will play connected defense. We don’t want to tally them down. It’s a bully business for america to have, to person 2 guys competing for that job.”