He maintained laser focus on the next college opponent, while playing in the secondary at Syracuse.
With Jeff Okudah being lost for the entire 2021 season due to an Achilles' injury, a significant opportunity has now presented itself, as the 2021 third-round draft pick could very well be staring down wideout Davante Adams for a significant portion of Monday's game.
“He’s kind of a low-key guy. He doesn’t say much, but he does handle his business and he’s smart," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. "He understands what we’re trying to get done. He’s had a good week. I think the big thing for him is, ‘Listen, there may be some things that happen. Just put it behind you, man.' Let’s go to the next play."
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a shaky start against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, but will be looking to rebound by testing Melifonwu early and often.
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With the volume of passes that Rodgers will likely throw on Monday night, Melifonwu will have his opportunity to make a play, and will take advantage of Rodgers' aggressiveness with an interception and a touchdown return, quieting the Lambeau Field crowd.
If the opposite should occur, Campbell wants the young defensive back to show grit and resiliency.
"Its not about him getting beat," Campbell said. "If it happens, it’s about, ‘I want to see the very next play.' How does he respond to that, or is that going to lead into the next play being a bad one, because you’re worried about what happened or you’re losing your confidence? Just go fight. Just go battle. Do what you have been coached to do, how AP (defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant) coached you. This quarterback is a good quarterback, 17 (Davante Adams) is a good player. We know they’re going to go after him. Why wouldn’t they? We would. We would do the same thing. But, I also know this, I’ve seen Aaron Rodgers go after veteran cornerbacks. It’s what they do.”
Campbell and the coaching staff is also not looking to hang their young defensive back out to dry.
They have the option to play Melifonwu on the opposite side of Adams or to provide him with additional support, to limit the damage caused by completions.
"Look, there will be a couple of things that we have that we think maximize his abilities, talking about our guy, but to where we give him enough help, as well," Campbell said. "We don’t just leave him on an island for 50 plays or 30 plays or whatever that is. There will be a fine balance, and I don’t want to give away what we’re trying to do. But, we understand, too, that, ‘Hey, this will be his first start, and it’s against a more than worthy opponent.’ We think we’re going to give him stuff that he can handle.”
If Melifonwu is able to secure the pick-six, something tells me he won't remain as low-key as he has demonstrated in practice.