Rookie defensive back Brian Branch has been extremely impressive since Day 1 of joining the Lions after they moved up in the second round of this year's NFL Draft to select him.
He's been so good, in fact, coaches haven't been able to take him off the field, and they've moved veteran C.J. Gardner-Johnson to safety to accommodate getting both on the field together as much as they can.
Branch primarily handled the nickel at Alabama and started all 13 games there last year. He had 90 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and seven passes defended. Those numbers certainly show off his versatility.
Branch was asked Wednesday after practice why he loves playing the nickel, and he said he loves it so much because it allows him to be in the middle of the action.
"I'm basically like a linebacker who can cover," he said. "I'm close to the line of scrimmage. A lot more stuff goes on at the line of scrimmage. Being able to really hit and cover at the same time. That's what I love about playing there."
Already in his short time in Detroit, Branch has proven he plays with poise beyond his years. He's a constant playmaker in practice and one of the players the Lions hope makes a big difference for them in their revamped secondary.
Detroit Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery knows Detroit's running backs have a chance to collectively have an impressive 2023 campaign, and not just because they are talented, fast and elusive. It's also because they run behind an offensive line that Montgomery has come to learn is pretty special.
"Our offensive line, I've seen movement in offensive lines in the run game but the collection of being able to protect and run it the way we're able to run the football and protect the quarterback has really stood out to me," Montgomery said Wednesday.
Montgomery comes to Detroit after spending two seasons as the running backs coach with the Indianapolis Colts, who have an impressive offensive line group blocking for their running backs. Under his tutelage, Montgomery's running backs in Indianapolis ranked top 10 across the league from 2021-22 in rushing yards (4,406), rushing average (4.7) and rushes of 10-plus yards (118).
And after watching Detroit's offensive line operate, paired with a versatile one-two punch at running back with veteran David Montgomery and rookie first-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs, Scottie Montgomery thinks the Lions' run game can be special. Both Montgomery and Gibbs had explosive runs in Tuesday's full-contact scrimmage against the No. 1 defense.
Scottie Montgomery singled out Pro Bowl right tackle Penei Sewell as being one of the most special players he's come across.
"I've seen a lot of ball, I've been around a lot of ball and, not calling one guy out from that group, because all of them deserve it, but late last night, I just went back and looked at the film and when you watch number 58 (Sewell), he's special," Montgomery said.
"I mean he could probably play a number of positions outside of the o-line position, skill included. So, o-line-wise, definitely they have stood out."
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown returned to Wednesday's walkthrough practice after missing the last few practices with an ankle injury suffered early in the first joint practice with the Jaguars last week.