Detroit Lions DB Brian Branch Will Be Even Better This Year

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In his first NFL game, Detroit Lions defensive back Brian Branch intercepted a Patrick Mahomes pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. The Lions won the game by a score of 21-20. It was the perfect way to introduce himself to Lions fans and stick the landing.

Detroit Lions DB Brian Branch Will Be Even Better This Year

Branch finished his rookie season as a Detroit Lions defensive back with three interceptions, 74 tackles, 13 broken passes, a sack, and a forced fumble. It was an impressive debut for the Alabama Crimson Tide standout, especially considering Branch appeared in only 15 games.

The College Years

By the time Branch began his junior year, he was already considered a top draft prospect for 2023. An AP All-American his junior year, Branch recorded 90 tackles with 14 for a loss, two interceptions, broke up seven passes, and had three sacks. Internalizing the critiques of Nick Saban’s coaching staff to improve his tackling, Branch demonstrated consistent progress each year.

The 2023 Draft

Branch was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round with the 45th overall pick. He was ranked the top safety in the draft that year despite being criticized for a lack of speed in the 40-yard dash. Lions General Manager Brad Holmes engineered a trade with Green Bay to secure Branch for the Lions, giving up the 48th and 159th picks.

Holmes was quoted at the time, “He’s very instinctive. He’s very physical. He’s one of the better tacklers, very athletic. The guy can bend, change directions. He’s got good size.”

Why Branch Will Be Even Better This Year

One other trait sold Holmes on the Branch selection. Speaking with him before the draft, Holmes could feel that this was a young prospect who hungered to be great. Holmes could feel how much this mattered to him. That hunger hasn’t diminished. It continues to drive him and that attitude keeps Branch digging deep to improve his skill set.

Although Branch primarily played nickel corner last year, one of the strengths Branch brings to Aaron Glenn’s defense is his versatility. Described as a “Swiss-army-knife” athlete with the ability to play multiple positions, Glenn can move Branch around to compensate for injuries and thwart different offensive schemes.

One of the biggest improvements the Lions accomplished in the 2024 draft was upgrading the defense. Selecting cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw as their number one and two draft picks this year, the Lions prioritized shoring up any gaps in their defensive coverage.

The draft of Arnold reunited Branch with his former Crimson Tide teammate. Playing alongside a familiar athlete who he already has chemistry with is an advantage. It can spur friendly competition and bring out the best in each player. Branch can also mentor Arnold as he experiences the inevitable rookie learning curve.

Injury Update

One concern about Branch leading into the 2024 season was the news surrounding his off-season injury status. In May, Branch was seen riding on a knee scooter with a boot on his foot, leading to speculation that he was recovering from recent surgery. The scooter was gone by the time of the OTAs at the end of the month. Branch was spotted walking around in the boot, although he didn’t practice. Coach Dan Campbell reassured fans that Branch had surgery to clean up an ongoing issue but was progressing well and should be ready for training camp.

Branch will be even better in his second year. His history in Alabama suggests he demands a lot of himself and improves his skills each year. No longer a rookie, Branch has one year of NFL and playoff experience with the Detroit Lions behind him. He knows what’s expected and has the skills and discipline to provide it. Playing alongside an improved Lions team defense will only strengthen his performance and lead to an outstanding season.

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