The Detroit Lions’ trade for Damon Harrison became official Thursday morning, and the 355-pound run-stopping menace of a defensive tackle practiced Thursday and Friday in preparation for Sunday’s home game vs. Seattle (3-3).
When asked Friday if two practices were enough to feel confident enough play on Sunday, Harrison said it will ultimately be up to head coach Matt Patricia, but he did think the last two days have been very productive.
“Our d-line coach has done a pretty good job of getting me up to speed on some things,” he said. “I know it’ll be a work in progress. I don’t expect to pick up everything in a couple days, but we’re working at it day and night.”
Harrison’s role won’t truly be defined until he gets the playbook down, but history tells us he can be a force in the middle and an impact player right away.
“He’s a big guy in the middle that can do a lot of different things,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “(He) does a great job of defeating blocks, plays with good technique, can knock the line of scrimmage back.”
Will we see some of those traits Sunday at Ford Field?
“Whenever we can get him ready to go and feeling comfortable in the system – he just got here the other day, so we’re going to try to do the best we can with it and we’ll see how it goes,” Patricia said.
Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson, who Harrison referenced as “those Alabama boys” hung out off the field with Harrison on Thursday, and worked through the playbook with him to try and get him even more acclimated.
Harrison has started 86 consecutive games in his career, and has the potential to play in 17 games this season because the Lions already had their bye and the New York Giants have not. Only a handful of players have done that in the history of the league.
“I’m coming to a new situation and just want to do whatever I can do to get on the field and help the team win,” Harrison said.
There is one thing for certain we’ve learned this week about Harrison. His new teammates are certainly happy to have him in Detroit:
- “I can’t wait to watch him,” wide receiver Golden Tate said.
- “He’s a dominant force on the inside,” said linebacker Devon Kennard. “He’s hard to block two on one. Excited to have him and see what he can do for us.”
- “It’s exciting … he’s been a big-time playmaker in this league for a long time,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “I’ve played against him a bunch of times, and (he’s) definitely a guy that you star when you’re playing against him and understand what his strengths are. Really happy to have him. He’s a big addition for our team.”
RED ZONE CHALLENGE
The most efficient team in the red zone through seven weeks this season is Seattle. The Seahawks are scoring a touchdown 73.3 percent of the time they reach the red zone.
The caveat to that is Seattle only has 15 red zone drives on the season, the fourth fewest in the league, but they’re still taking advantage of the times they do get deep in opponent territory.
It’s an area that definitely concerns Patricia.
“That’s the biggest issue that we have today for practice,” Patricia said Friday.
Seattle is No. 1 in the NFL in the percentage of successful plays (61.8 percent) per total of offensive plays in the red zone.
Their ability to run the ball both with their backs and using the read option plays a factor. The vertical speed of the skill players also plays into their success in the red zone. But the biggest factor in Seattle’s success in the red zone, at least according to Patricia, is quarterback Russell Wilson.
“Russell Wilson and his ability to extend plays is the No. 1 thing that is just so difficult to defend,” Patricia said. “We’ll sit here and talk about it on Friday, but on Sunday it’s going to happen.
“He is unbelievable with his ability to make defenders slow down, freeze, get around them, get the edge, scramble, extend it and the receivers do a great job of getting to their different break points on the field. They have just refined that and done it better than probably most anyone in the league right now. So, it’s a big problem for us.”
Detroit’s defense has been pretty good in the red zone this season. They’re allowing a touchdown just 47.3 percent of the time, which is ninth best in the league.
TATE PUNT RETURNS
In Detroit’s first game without All-Pro punt returner Jamal Agnew last week, the Lions used veteran wide receivers Golden Tate and TJ Jones in punt return duties against the Dolphins.
Tate returned two for 15 yards. Jones didn’t get an opportunity to return one.
“I haven’t been back there in a year and a half,” Tate said. “So, I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt pretty good.”
Tate’s longest return of that contest was nine yards, but he was close to busting it open. He’s returned 92 punts in his career for an average of 10.6 yards per return. He has a long of 71 yards. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands — Lions fans have known that for years — so there’s an expectation when he’s back there and gets an opportunity to return one, he could make a difference.
“I can definitely see some seams and holes in there that I could have taken advantage of,” Tate said of last week.
Can he take advantage of them this week and make a big play on special teams that could be the difference in a big game at home?