Starting strong safety DeShon Elliott is expected to miss a second straight game Sunday due to a shoulder injury suffered Week 15 as the Lions host the Chicago Bears in a critical NFC North matchup.
That means second-year safety Ifeatu Melifonwu is expected to start in Elliott's spot for a second consecutive week. Lions head coach Dan Campbell expects him to be better this week than he was in his first start in Carolina last week.
"I would anticipate we'd see him react quicker," Campbell said of Melifonwu on Friday. "I think we're going to see a player that sees it faster and triggers faster, and he knows what we're looking for just from what we talked about, the intensity, the aggressiveness. So, yeah, I anticipate we'll see a better version of Iffy."
Last week was the first significant snaps Melifonwu has played all season after missing time with an ankle injury. It was also the first real snaps he's played at safety after making the transition from cornerback to safety.
"Game 1 to Game 2 will definitely be a little bit slower," Melifonwu said Friday. "That was my first time playing safety ever in my whole career. It's a whole different change from being on the outside and seeing half the field and being more in man responsibility. To being in the box and responsible for run and pass and communication, so I think it'll be a big jump from Game 1 to Game 2."
Melifonwu led the Lions with eight tackles last week, including a tackle for loss, but he also missed a couple tackles and allowed both the targets thrown his way to be competitions.
Campbell said he'll be looking for more aggressiveness out of Melifonwu on Sunday. He wants the second-year safety to be more violent and finish plays.
He and fellow safety Kerby Joseph have an important task this week, not only being the last line of defense, but also filling holes and being sure tacklers against quarterback Justin Fields and the No. 1 ranked Chicago run game.
Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson hasn't had a game this season where he's played less than 52 snaps. He's played in every game this year and has 872 snaps on the season, which is among the leaders for players in their first season. Only linebacker Alex Anzalone has played more snaps (982) for Detroit's defense this season.
There hasn't been a rookie wall for Hutchinson. He still leads all rookies with 7.0 sacks and has also chipped in 44 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"There's a lot of similarities with him and for example a guy like Saint (Amon-Ra St. Brown) last year," Campbell said. "Very mature, understood coming in how to take care of his body, training, working through things and constantly working your craft.
"He has taken a load and I don't care what player you are you're not as fresh as you were Game 1 of the season. But he still continues to bang away in there. I mean, he's done a really good job for us, he's been productive and that's with everything, the run, the pass, and he still gives us all-out effort. So, he just continues to trend the right way."
Sunday marks the final game of the season at Ford Field for the Lions as they'll head to Green Bay to play the Packers at Lambeau Field Week 18. If the Lions make the playoffs, they'll be the No. 7 seed and will have to navigate their way through the NFC bracket on the road.
With it being the final home game, Campbell said Friday they might as well give the home crowd a good show against the Bears.
"It's loud, crowd's into it, certainly gives us energy," Campbell said Friday. "But we also know we've got to fuel that fire. If anything, man, it just motivates you down the road to want to extend that and have more home games when you get into January because you know what it will be. But it's good to be back, last one let's give them a show."