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Lions Roundtable: Does the addition of Damon Harrison make Detroit a playoff team?

The Detroit Lions sent a fifth-round pick to the New York Giants in exchange for a 355-pound defensive force along the interior. Does that make them a playoff team?

New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out our archive and some of our (relatively) recent discussions:

What a difference a week in the NFL makes, right? Last week we talked about whether or not the Detroit Lions are pretenders or contenders in the NFC North, but after the team’s sure-handed victory over the Dolphins in Miami last week, Detroit finds themselves right in the mix of the division with ten games to go in the season.

And as the Pride of Detroit staff was breaking down the tape of some truly special performances from last week, including the best performance of Jarrad Davis’ pro career, and dedicating songs to Kerryon Johnson’s career day on the ground, something happened: the Lions got to snacking.

Detroit traded a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to New York in exchange for Damon Harrison, and it was a move nobody could have anticipated coming down the pipe before next Tuesday’s league trade deadline.

With that being said, let’s not waste any more time and get right into our discussion for the week.

Does the addition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison make Detroit a playoff team?

Ryan Mathews: For someone who was totally in on sending a draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals for the previously believed to be maligned Patrick Peterson, this trade is the best consolation prize I never could have drawn up myself. Sure, it makes sense the Giants would make Harrison available—they’re the tire fire of the NFC if not the NFL—but to get Harrison for just a fifth-round pick when the Lions have extra late-round draft capital in 2019 is a total boon.

In short, forget about the talks of Patrick Peterson—who has since said he’s 100 percent focused on being a part of the Cardinals rebuild—and make no mention of trading Golden Tate because this team is clearly all-in on this season (sorry, Kyle). But beyond our collective belief this trade was a great deal by Bob Quinn and Co., what does it mean for the Lions chances to make the playoffs?

Jeremy Reisman: After last week’s performance against the Dolphins, I thought this team actually looked like a team capable of making the playoffs—especially in a conference devoid of more than one or two clear contenders. With this move, they are absolutely playoff—and NFC North—contenders.

Hamza: IT’S SNACK TIME! I’m usually heavily against giving up draft capital but I really like this move. Immediate impact for a fifth rounder is a solid deal, especially someone like Snacks Harrison. At least four out of the Lions’ next five games will be decided by whether or not they can stop the run, and there couldn’t be a better time for the Lions to acquire Harrison.

Kent Lee Platte: Detroit was knocking on the door of being a playoff team when Matt Patricia was hired. After a slow start, many (including myself) questioned if they were built to contend or if the defensive overhaul would take too long. Now at 3-3, with a staggeringly improved run offense, insanely protective offensive line, and improving defense, they go out and grab an anchor. I think the team's improvements made them a dark horse contender, but with things finally coming together and then a fleecing for such a special player, it's hard to avoid calling Lions a true problem in the NFC.

John Whiticar: Next time, can the Lions please wait until I’m awake to make a significant move like this? Being on the West Coast is not good for breaking news—though it is good for #PAC12AfterDark.

Going back to the Snacks at hand, this is an incredible trade for the Lions. The weakest point of the defense this season has been the interior, Sylvester Williams in particular. For a team giving up 5.3 yards per carry, Harrison should instantly help clog up the middle. With Jarrad Davis coming off the best game of his career, A’Shawn Robinson rebounding after an early benching, Da’Shawn Hand surging as a rookie, and numerous players getting multi-sack games, this defense is all of a sudden looking pretty good. The question is whether they can maintain their level from the Miami game.

Mathews: It’s clear the Lions have been in on this season from the moment Quinn fired Jim Caldwell and said this roster was better than 9-7. Moving up to draft Kerryon, moving up to get Da’Shawn Hand, and now this? Sure, it’s setting them up for future success as well, but doesn’t this seem like a “2018 could be ours if we want it” deal?

Jeremy: Okay, if everyone seems to be on board that this move makes the Lions a playoff team (or at the very least a contender), what is something that may hold them back? Because for as hyped as I am about this team right now, I’m not completely convinced they make the postseason. The Lions’ run defense problems weren’t solely on the defensive line, and they’ll still need good linebacker play. One game does not “fix” Jarrad Davis.

Kent: So some devil's advocate here, then. Though I'm on record saying that nose was the weakest spot on the defense, and that's fixed, that shouldn't imply that the defense only had one hole. The linebacker group as a whole have struggled to consistently close gaps along the line and their worst issues have at times been on the edge. Additionally, Darius Slay has struggled in back-to-back games and whoever plays across from Slay has struggled nearly every game. The secondary has been a strength, but they've also felt one small injury from disaster every time they're on the field. Discipline remains an issue in that group, and while playing physical has advantages it can also kill stops on defense if it's not controlled.

Hamza: I definitely think this makes a big impact on the team in the long term and, like I mentioned before, will be a deciding factor over several of the next few games. I still haven’t had all my concerns re: Stafford washed away, however. He’s been on fire as of late, especially with that 95 percent adjusted completion percentage against the Dolphins.

The numbers can be deceiving, however; just look at the game against the 49ers. While he played a clean game with 3 TDs and no interceptions, he was very visibly off his game for the first 3+ quarters, and I’m really afraid that can show up again, and who knows when? This defense has a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, but there’s been a lot of bending and had it not been for early first quarter leads the last two games, we’d be talking about very different outcomes. If Stafford just isn’t mentally there for the first quarter of some game, you might as well just throw the whole game away.

John: This team will always ride-or-die by their offense under Stafford. It’s all up to the defense to limit the damage. We’ve seen a team like Kansas City flourish under an explosive offense despite an awful defense. Truth be told, I think the Lions can be a team like the Chiefs. There’s a lot of talent on this offense. If the acquisition of Harrison can make the Lions defense just average, that could be enough to make the playoffs.

Hamza: (something something Stafford finally has a running game.)


Are the Lions a playoff team after the Damon Harrison trade?

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