With DeShon Elliott most likely out on Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, opportunity will knock for Lions second-year man Ifeatu Melifonwu.
Lions safety DeShon Elliott left last Sunday’s game against the Jets with a shoulder injury, and Lions head coach Dan Campbell all but declared him out for Week 16 against the Panthers on Tuesday.
Campbell mentioned C.J. Moore, who stepped in for Elliott against the Jets and played solidly, and Ifeatu Melifonwu, as options to fill in for Elliott. The idea both will play against the Panthers is not far-fetched, and on Thursday Campbell (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) confirmed the plan is just that when talking about Melifonwu.
"We like his ability,” Campbell said. “He’s got some range to him. He’s not afraid to get down there and tackle. Some of the experience would be the big thing, but we just felt like he’s another of our young guys, we just let him go. Cause he’s aware enough. He just, he needs the battle reps. So he’s going to get some plays now. He’s going to get to play a little bit. That’s for sure. As will C.J…"
Ifeatu Melifonwu lined up for opportunity vs. Panthers
A third-round pick in 2021, Melifonwu holds the distinction of being the first player the Lions drafted with a pick from the Matthew Stafford trade. An injury impacted his rookie season, limiting him to seven games, but he took on a pretty big role late in the season–making four starts.
Melifonwu made the move from cornerback to safety heading into this season. But again an injury sidelined him for a time, and he has played just six defensive snaps all season along with 67 special teams snaps.
Melifonwu’s physical and athletic traits (6-foot-2, 4.48 40-yard dash speed, huge wingspan) make him an intriguing player. It’s just a matter of getting playing experience, and as the Lions look to fill a void with Elliott out that opportunity is lined up for him in an important game for the team.