Lions rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu returning to practice

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Lions do some roster maneuvering coming off the bye, rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu is getting closer to returning.

The Detroit Lions have been doing some roster maneuvering in and after their bye week, with players coming back off IR and some veterans being let go. On the former note, rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu will return to practice on Wednesday.

Melifonwu and cornerback/return man Corey Ballentine will both start a 21-day clock to be activated on Wednesday. Melifonwu has not played since Week 2 due to a thigh injury, and Ballentine went on IR after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 5.

Owing mostly to having the fewest pass attempts against in the league (222), the Lions are a respectable 14th in the league against the pass entering Week 10 (244.4 yards per game). But by any other pass defense metric (completion percentage allowed, passer rating against, yards per pass attempt, adjusted yards per pass attempt, interceptions, etc.) they are in the bottom tier of the league.

Ifeatu Melifonwu can help the Lions secondary

The Lions drafted Melifonwu in the third round (101st overall) out of Syracuse last April. He started in Week 2 aganst the Green Bay Packers, in place of the injured Jeff Okudah, before suffering that thigh injury.

To say Melifonwu is a big corner (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) is putting it lightly. Lance Zierlien of had Trumaine Johnson as Melifonwu’s comp during the pre-draft process, while giving him a starter-level grade and projecting him as a second-round pick.

The strengths Zierlein cited for Melifonwu, rooted in size, strength and good physical traits, are not surprising. The weaknesses Zierlein cited, common to bigger corners (change of direction, posture in backpedal, etc.) are also not surprising.

Melifonwu showed a propensity for being around the ball in college (19 pass breakups in three seasons, 43 solo tackles in 2020), and in 42 NFL snaps he has a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He has potential in Aaron Glenn’s defensive scheme, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to show it before the season is over.