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Lions looking to ease C.J. Gardner-Johnson back onto the field

Over the last two weeks, C.J. Gardner-Johnson has been back at practice for the Detroit Lions. He worked his way back from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in Week 2 this season. Since then, the Lions have been searching for production from their safety position.

There was some positive play from Tracy Walker earlier in the season but defensively, he was benched in Week 14. Since then, he hasn’t played any defensive snaps. The most consistent safety the Lions have had has been Kerby Joseph and at times, the team will rotate Brian Branch back to play as a split-safety or even have Cover 3 responsibilities.

However, it seems like the player that has stepped up the most as of late has been Ifeatu Melifonwu. Since week 14, he’s seen a significant increase with his role on defense and has become a starter for this unit. During this time, Melifonwu has compiled 21 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Lions work Gardner-Johnson back into the fold with the consistency from Joseph and the spark that Melifonwu has provided. Especially when talking to reporters on Friday, Gardner-Johnson had this to say about a rotation, “Getting into a rotation, I’m cool with it, but how can I say this? I don’t want to sound like I’m selfish or an a******, but I ain’t get back early to be in a rotation. But I’m doing what I need to do as a team player to get my body going.”

Unfortunately, that might be the case for Gardner-Johnson this weekend against the Vikings. From the sounds of it, Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn will ease him back onto the field. When talking with the media, Campbell alluded to that, “It doesn’t mean that he has to like it, but he’s going to go out there and when he’s on the field, he’s going to give what he’s got.”

No question, all ideas will be on the Lions first defensive series to see if Gardner-Johnson is out there with the starters. If I had to guess, the Lions will look more into their dime packages with Melifonwu, Branch, Joseph and Gardner-Johnson all on the field at the same time. Branch and Gardner-Johnson would play more so over the slot and they wouldn’t have to worry about deep coverage unless they were in man coverage.

Either way, the Lions getting Gardner-Johnson back before the playoffs is huge. Despite only playing two games this year, he does have 13 tackles and two pass deflections. He’ll look to add to that and finish the season strong as he returns to Ford Field on Sunday as the Lions close out the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire