Ifeatu Melifonwu's first two NFL seasons were impacted by injuries, with a position change to safety after playing cornerback in college and as a rookie. He took advantage of an opportunity to start earlier this season, posting the fourth-highest PFF grade among Lions' defensive players back in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Melfonwu started again in Week 4, when Kerby Joseph remained out, but hardly played any defensive snaps for weeks after that as he dealt with a hand injury.
In search of some answers for a struggling secondary, the Lions shifted some playing time around in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears. Kindle Vildor taking a couple series from Jerry Jacobs at the corner spot opposite Cam Sutton was more of a headline. But Melifonwu started at the safety spot opposite Joseph in place of Tracy Walker, and played all but one defensive snap.
And the former third-round pick played well, with four total tackles and the third-best PFF grade among Lions' defensive players (67.0).
Ifeatu Melifonwu has seized starting job until further notice
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn spoke to the media on Wednesday. He talked about the lineup changes in the secondary, of course, including Melifonwu likely continuing to start.
"We just thought this was the week to give him a chance to go out there and start and see how he did,” Glenn said. “I think he did a pretty good job. Listen, it’s his first time starting in a while, and there were some mistakes in there just like any other player. But I think he did a pretty good job, and we’re going to continue to move in that direction to see how he do.”
In two of his three starts so far this season, Melifonwu has been among the best Lions' defensive players by Pro Football Focus grade. If not for his hand injury he might have gotten a chance to take Walker's starting job sooner, but now he's not in line to let it go anytime soon.