In order to aid their anemic run defense, the Lions took advantage of the New York Giants garage sale and acquired nose tackle Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison. The former Giant is one of the most active and productive interior defensive linemen in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus, he has led NFL interior defensive linemen in tackles against the run for three straight years and is currently number two in that category this season.
This has been one of the Lions biggest missing links to getting their new defense right. If we all recall, the New England Patriots defense was at its best when they had Vince Wilfork manning the nose tackle position. Just ask Matt Patricia who used to coach that defense. He can tell you the benefits of having someone that big and dominant in the middle of it.
Now the Lions will have their own version of a dominant nose tackle.
In Matt Patricia’s, New Englandesque style defense, it does put an emphasis on multiple defensive formations. Depending on who the opponent is, they may line up in a 3-4 front or a 4-3 front or they may also drop a linebacker or two and use extra defensive backs if needed. But for the sake of this article, we’ll just focus on the front seven.
In any type of three-man front, the nose tackle is the key to controlling the opponents running game. If your defense has someone who can control the middle of the offense, that will hinder the opponents ground game in a few ways.
The first would be the ability of that nose-tackle to make plays in the backfield themselves. The second would the ability of that nose man to free up the middle linebackers to make plays because the nose-tackle occupies the interior offensive linemen and cuts down on blockers getting in the linebackers way towards making the play.
In other words, this is a win-win for the Lions defense.