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Lions defensive coach: Healthy Charles Harris will make defense ‘much better’

Outside linebackers coach David Corrao believes with Charles Harris now healthy, the Detroit Lions defense will be much improved from 2022.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nationally, many were surprised to see the Detroit Lions fail to address the defensive end position this offseason. After drafting Aidan Hutchinson in 2022, many believed Detroit was in need of someone to pair with him.

But the more and more you talk to Lions coaches and players, the more you realize they really like the guys they have. And one of the guys who still seems to be under many analysts’ radar is veteran Charles Harris. Speaking with team reporter Tim Twentyman, outside linebackers coach Dave Corrao spoke about how essential Harris is to the team.

“Charles is a tremendous veteran leadership presence,” Corrao said on Twentyman’s podcast. “He does things the right way: His attention to detail, the way he comes to practice, the way he brings what he does to the game.”

Harris was one of a few bright spots on a struggling defense in 2021. Harris tallied 7.5 sacks that season despite being one of the most double-teamed players in football. He also produced 52 pressures (per PFF), good for 22nd most in the NFL. Going into 2022, the hope was that he would continue to build on that. With a better supporting cast—including the addition of Hutchinson—he’d have less attention on him and become an even more efficient player.

However, it didn’t work out that way. Harris battled a groin injury for most of the season. He ended up playing in just six games and tallying just a single sack.

But with the injury behind him now, Corrao has high expectations for the 28-year-old defender.

“A healthy Charles Harris is going to make us a much better defense,” Corrao said.

Of course, it’s not just about Harris. Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, and James Houston are all entering Year 2 of their NFL careers, where they could see a significant jump. Detroit also has Romeo Okwara another year removed from his serious Achilles injury, and 2022 standout John Cominsky returns after a successful year. Harris gives the unit an extra bump not just for his production on the field, but for the model he provides to everyone else in the room.

“What we constantly find ourselves doing is pointing to what he is doing and telling the guys, ‘Look, if you want know what it looks like,’” Corrao said. “An old defensive coordinator I used to work for, we used to talk about, you have to know what it looks like. If you want to do things the right way, you gotta know what they look like, and Charles is the guy that we find ourselves repeatedly over and over pointing to him as, ‘That’s the example of what we want it to look like.”

Last year, the Lions produced 39 sacks (t-18th), finished 25th in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, and 16th in PFF’s team pass rush grade. With a healthy Harris and a crew of young edge defenders, expectations will be much higher in 2023.

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