With the Detroit Lions heading into dress rehearsal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday, it’s time for our bold prediction of the week. Part of a season-long series, it will be exactly as the title indicates: one hot take every week about what will unfold on Sunday (or in this case, Friday). Let’s take a look at this week’s prediction.
Bold prediction of the week: Eli Harold plays with the first team defense
For those unfamiliar with the name, do not panic: the Lions acquired the linebacker from the San Francisco 49ers Thursday morning in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick.
From a long term perspective, this doesn’t seem outlandish at all—the Lions are clearly in desperate need of linebacker help. The starting defense played a large majority of the first half last Friday and it was not pretty by any means. The most glaring hole came at the second level, in which the linebackers consistently struggled to set the edge in the running game and failed to keep up in coverage.
Early in the third quarter, Giants third string quarterback Kyle Lauletta juked out four Lions defenders, including Steve Longa who tore his ACL on the play. That made an ugly problem even worse, leaving the Lions to acquire Harold.
The boldness in this prediction comes in the fact that Harold was only acquired Thursday morning. Odds are he’s barely set foot in Allen Park, let alone gotten ahold of a playbook. The conditions behind Harold’s trade however make it an interesting case, as the Lions only have to give up a seventh rounder if Harold is on the roster for more than a quarter of the regular season.
Comp update: Lions traded a conditional 7th-round pick in 2020 to the 49ers for LB Eli Harold, per source. The condition is that Harold has to be on Lions' roster for four weeks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 23, 2018
With Friday night being the third preseason game and thus the inherent dress rehearsal, coaches will no doubt want to see how Harold fits with the Lions defense. Waiting until the fourth preseason game won’t give them a very realistic sample size as he would play against mostly backups, and the last thing they’ll want to do is try and toy with his fit in the defense during the regular season.
The playbook could be less of an obstacle as it sounds, too. As Mansur Shaheen broke down in film review Thursday, Harold’s specialty comes in the run-stopping department, particularly setting contain on the edge of the line, which the Lions struggled with tremendously against the Giants. If the Lions want that to be his primary role, he could see spot duty with the first team, rotating in and out by down and working almost exclusively in run defense.
Thus, with the Lions having no options but to be haste in their evaluation of Harold, he could see action with the first team as soon as Friday night. The Lions will want to know what they have in him before it’s too late, even if it means plugging and playing as soon as he lands in Detroit.