Brian Branch is reshaping the Lions plans in the secondary

With an outstanding showing up to this point, Brian Branch is altering the original plan in the Lions' secondary.
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes turned a weakness into a strength this offseason, adding Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson in a free agency remodeling of the secondary. He added to that talent influx by trading up and taking Alabama safety Brian Branch, who had a chance to a be a first-round pick, in the second round of the draft.

Similar to Gardner-Johnson, Branch brings plenty of versatility to the table and was easy to tab as a bit of a succession plan as a versatile secondary piece with Gardner-Johnson on a one-year deal. Not that the rookie wouldn't have an important role right away, but starting out of the gate didn't feel like it was in the cards.

Branch has been a consistent training camp standout, with progress noted by head coach Dan Campbell during joint practices this past week against the New York Giants. So the timetable to have him on the field as much as plausible is changing. Gardner-Johnson's leg injury early in camp opened up an opportunity at nickel corner that he hasn't relinquished.

Brian Branch changing the picture of the Lions' secondary

As highlighted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (subscription required), Branch is pushing for first-team nickel corner duty--or at least prominent rotational duties. Head coach Dan Campbell's comments about Gardner-Johnson on Wednesday were revealing to some degree.

"I think sometimes this may get lost with C.J., he’s an excellent communicator, Excellent communicator, and so you just kind of see the growth of he and Kerby together and I believe it’s elevated Kerby’s game as well."

Dan Campbell

Campbell seemed to speak of Gardner-Johnson and Kerby Joseph as a safety pairing, with Branch as the No. 1 nickel/slot corner in correlation. That would push Tracy Walker, who seems to be back to full strength after his Achilles tear in Week 3 last season, to a backup role. But Campbell is obviously not writing off Walker as a candidate to start, with Joseph locked into one starting spot at safety.

Preseason games will be the next step in Branch's push to earn a starting job. But the fact he or Walker could wind up in a backup role firmly shows the new embarrassment of riches in the Lions' secondary.

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