Lions expect more from Brian Branch in Year 2

As a rookie last season, Lions cornerback Brian Branch made an immediate impact as a nickel cornerback. He started nine of the 15 games he played in, and was on the field for about three-quarters of the Lions’ defensive snaps. But this year, the Lions want more.

Lions defensive assistant Jim O’Neil says Branch can get more playing time, and if he’s healthy could be on the field for close to 100 percent of snaps.

“Last year they were a little more hesitant with BB to just kind of fix him at one spot. Now that he’s going into Year 2, I think we’ll be more aggressive with him,” O’Neil said, via the team’s website. He’s the type of player you want to see out there on all three downs, so we’re going to push him to that. At the end of the day, he still has to come out in training camp, and he has to take that job.”

Training camp will be a big opportunity for Branch to prove he belongs as one of the 11 Lions who’s on the field every defensive snap.

“In the role he had last year I thought he played really well as a rookie,” O’Neil said. “Now it’s, can he make the next jump as a second-year player and can he make the next jump maybe just being fixed as a safety or maybe being a safety and a nickel? That’s all things we’re going to figure out in training camp.”

After one of the best seasons in franchise history last year, the Lions believe they have a young nucleus of players who can sustain that success for years to come. They expect Branch to be a big part of it.

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