Brian Branch lined up to have expanded role in the Lions secondary next season

With the departure of defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Brian Branch is set to have an expanded role next season.
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With the departure of veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and a season under his belt, Brian Branch may have an expanded role for the Detroit Lions next season, 

Branch finished with notable numbers as a versatile playmaker in the Detroit defense as a rookie last season, recording 74 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass deflections. His knack for being in the right place at the right time, combined with his physicality and coverage skills, made him a critical piece of the Lions' defense right off the bat.

Branch's versatility theoretically opens up what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn can do with him, and elsewhere in his scheming up of the Lions' defense on a weekly basis.

Branch was listed as a safety coming out of Alabama, but he lined all over the field in college and can certainly do so as a pro. As rookie he was primarily the Lions' slot corner, with Gardner-Johnson not available most of the season to take a share of that role.

However, at the league meetings last week, head coach head coach Dan Campbell spoke about the flexibility Branch offers.

"Certainly, Branch has flexibility to be able to play the safety position we believe here in time." Campbell said. "It's how fast do we get him there? Because what you don''t want to do is, Alright, he can play nickel and safety, but it takes away from his nickel play. How good he is as a nickel or how good he can become. So, it's finding that fine balance between the two."

Campbell did suggest, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, that too much was put on Branch's plate too soon last season.

"We split his focus too soon (last season). He'll get it. Let's spoon-feed it instead of just trying to throw him out there. Let him continue to grow at the nickel position. He'll be able to tell us where we can go with him."

Moving Branch off his primary role as the Lions' nickel corner, which he was of course excellent at last season, is certainly a slippery slope. But in a broader sense, his versatility is a great asset and the idea of getting some more run as a safety is a good thing.

Looking toward next season, Branch has a season of experience under his belt and that is lined up to allow more to be put on his plate. What that will ultimately look like is to be determined, but it's an exciting prospect.