After taking some reps at safety last week, head coach Dan Campbell explains just what led to the coaching staff trying cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu out at a new position.
The Detroit Lions drafted Melifonwu in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft and played him at cornerback in seven games last season. He likely would’ve played more but found himself on injured reserve for a solid chunk of the year with a quad injury. Now during OTAs, the 23-year-old out of Syracuse is trying his hand at safety.
Campbell explained Thursday that it basically comes down to versatility.
“If we don’t do it now, you may not end up doing it,” he said. “The more that we can figure out about our players, the better off we are. I think that only helps us. ... The more you guys that you have that have versatility, flexibility inside your scheme, man it really helps you.”
He added what makes Melifonwu a possible fit at safety is his is length, range, and ball skills, and his football IQ. Last week, the corner said he’s happy the coaches know he’s got what it takes to try it out.
“I take pride in that the coaches can see me and use me as a matchup,” Melifonwu said. “Put me where they need me to be for each week, I do take pride in that.”
One of the perks, he said, is getting the chance to see the full field and there’s big-time value in knowing what everyone else is doing. At corner, you might know what the safety next to you is doing, but at safety, you’re watching everybody.
“I like it, it’s a different perspective,” he said. “It’s definitely a different perspective — you see the whole field instead of just one side of the formation. I’m still getting used to it. I like corner as well. It’s two different things.”
Though Melifonwu was out of practice on Thursday nursing an apparent leg injury, his goals from Year 1 to Year 2 are staying healthy, perfecting his technique, and knowing the full playbook at all positions.
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