ALLEN PARK — While it is just June – three months away from the Lions’ season opener – even quarterback Jared Goff has noticed that it’s tougher to find an open wide receiver during mandatory minicamp.
Coach Dan Campbell credits defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and his staff for the improvement so far.
“The additions that we do have — there again it’s early, we’re in spring. There’s a reason why we got Cam Sutton, there’s a reason why we got (Emmanuel) Moseley, there’s a reason why we got C.J. (Gardner-Johnson) because we believe they certainly upgrade us production-wise and they’re also football guys,’’ Campbell said on Wednesday. “They fit everything that we’re about — the way they go about their business, they’re veteran guys, they’ve got skins on the wall, they come from winning programs and they play the game the right way.’’
Campbell feels like the team is way ahead of where it was two years ago and sees the biggest difference in the secondary.
“That’s without Moseley right now being out there. Once we get him back and he’s healthy and obviously getting Tracy (Walker) back that’s a big transformation with depth and competition,’’ Campbell said.
Of the new guys, Gardner-Johnson has been a standout on the field for his talkative style.
Defensive lineman Romeo Okwara said the secondary is noticeably louder.
“I think it’s huge for the guys back there, especially the young guys. (Gardner-Johnson) brings a lot to the table. I think we’ve totally got better in the secondary and the defense of course.’’
Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu, entering his third season, is one of the younger guys picking up on playing with the more experienced additions to the defensive backs room.
“(Gardner-Johnson) is very vocal, very talkative but in a good way though,’’ Melifonwu said. “It comes from a good place. He wants to see all of us be great and push each other so it’s good.
His energy and just the energy of the (defensive backs) room in general rubs off on everyone.’’
Melifonwu made the switch to safety last season, but was limited to 10 games due to injury. He came back and played in the final eight games mostly on special teams but the final three at safety.
“I was just really coming back. It was my first real game reps at safety,’’ Melifonwu said. “I never had played the position before, but I feel that helped coming into this year.’’
He and the other younger defensive backs are benefiting from the more veteran players which could help boost the defense. The new guys have fit in seamlessly.
“We all want to see each other be great and be successful as a team. It all comes from a good place. We have a lot of older guys in the room, so it’s like our meetings might be a lot of people giving different perspectives,’’ Melifonwu said. “The way one guy says something might resonate with a younger guy better than the other one said it. It’s like we have a lot of vets and leaders in the room so everyone listens and, obviously, to the coach, I think it helps.’’
Melifonwu has switched jersey numbers from No. 26 to No. 6. He said he wanted No. 2, but Gardner-Johnson got it. That’s OK with him. “Six is my second-favorite single digit,” Melfionwu explained.
The Lions wrap up the mandatory minicamp on Thursday and finish their OTAs next week.