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Rodgers Will Face Rookie Starters in Lions’ Secondary

"Welcome to the NFL," Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu making his first start against Aaron Rodgers on Monday.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With top cover man Jeff Okudah out with an Achilles injury, what was Aaron Rodgers’ impression of the Detroit Lions’ cornerbacks?

“A couple long last names,” the Green Bay Packers’ MVP quarterback said after Thursday’s practice.

Of course, Rodgers’ knowledge runs a bit deeper than knowing the Lions’ starting corners on Monday night will be Amani Oruwariye and Ifeatu Melifonwu. Oruwariye, a fifth-round pick in 2019, started both games against Green Bay last season. Rodgers threw touchdown passes to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling against him in the December matchup at Ford Field. With Okudah out, third-round rookie Melifonwu will make his first NFL start at cornerback.

With Melifonwu and A.J. Parker, an undrafted free agent with a short last name who mans the slot, the Lions will start two rookies in the secondary. Fortunately for them, they can lean on their first-year defensive coordinator for guidance. Aaron Glenn was a first-round pick by the Jets in 1994. In 15 NFL seasons, he intercepted 41 passes and was selected for three Pro Bowls.

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“‘Welcome to the NFL as a rookie corner,’” Glenn said of Melifonwu making his first NFL start against Rodgers. “It doesn’t matter who you are, when you were drafted, where you came from, I think every quarterback and every offensive coordinator is going to try a rookie DB. But, it’s all about playing that position. I think he expects it. We expect it. He’s been having good practices. He’s had a good training camp and I look forward to seeing the player play.”

Glenn recalled his first NFL game coming against the high-octane Buffalo Bills offense led by quarterback Jim Kelly and receiver Andre Reed.

“I can recall the first play, my coach was yelling at me because I was up and under Reed’s face,” Glenn said. “I said, ‘If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down challenging.’ Luckily, we had a good game, we won that game, but I do remember it. We don’t have to remind Iffy (Melifonwu) about that. I think we want to make sure Iffy does go out there and play well, play hard. I think he will be OK.”

Both units will be looking to improve after shoddy Week 1 performances. The Packers mustered merely a field goal in a 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Lions trailed the San Francisco 49ers 31-10 at halftime and 38-3 on Deebo Samuel’s 79-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter before losing 41-33 at home. Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went 17-of-25 for 314 yards, his 12.56 yards per attempt leading the NFL through Week 1.

“That’s not us and it probably won’t ever happen again,” Packers tight end Robert Tonyan said. “Obviously, everyone’s in shock that it happened. So, at least we’re all on the same page with that, that wasn’t us. What’s good is we kind of moved past it, because we really didn’t know what the heck that was, but yeah, onto next week, take what we can learn from it, flush the bad stuff, and just keep on rolling.”