Detroit Lions: Will Harris a breakout candidate entering the 2020 season

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

Second-year safety Will Harris has the potential to be a breakout player for the Detroit Lions entering the 2020 regular season.

Will Harris got his feet wet as a rookie safety last season but endured plenty of ups and downs, as rookies do.  The Detroit Lions selected Harris with the 81st overall pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Harris, a bit more mature than many second-year players, is soon to be 25-years old. He played four years with the Boston College compiling 225 tackles, five interceptions, seven passes defended, six fumbles recovered, and one touchdown.

Harris excelled in both of his junior and senior seasons, recording 83 tackles and 75 respectably. He mirrored his college style of play during his first professional season, playing his best football willing to defend the run and getting after the passer when his number was called upon to blitz. Still, it was on a minimal basis.  As you know, the Lions ‘bend, don’t break’ style of defense doesn’t allow for nearly enough extra blitzing pieces.  It’s usually just a four-man rush, and that needs to change.

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Last season the Detroit Lions traded a team captain in Quandre Diggs away to Seattle, opening the door for Harris to see an abundance of playing time alongside budding star Tracy Walker and veteran Tavon Wilson.

This Winter, the Lions traded for Duran Harmon from the New England Patriots, and he’s best suited to play center field for the Lions.  It’s a perfect marriage of safeties, in my opinion.

I expect to see Detroit use Harmon as the deep safety, allowing Walker to roam, and when Harris is on the field in three safety-sets, he’ll be able to lurk in the box and hopefully add some much-needed pressure on the quarterback.

For Harris to take the next step, he’ll need to sure up his coverage success or lack thereof from last season.  Last year Harris yielded a catch rate of 75%, allowing nearly 14 yards per reception and allowed three touchdowns.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Harris earned himself a mere 55.3 overall grade, which included a 58.5 run defending mark, and 55.4 coverage grade, both below average.  He did earn himself an above-average pass-rush mark of 73.7, but it’s flawed as he only created three total pressures and recorded one sack.

The young safety did save his best for last.

He left us wanting more after a solid week 17 performance against the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers.  In that season finale, Harris recorded a sack, allowed just one reception on three targets, and made three solo tackles on only 36 defensive snaps.  Harris earned a season-best 73.6 overall grade in that final game of the year.

Harris played nearly 60% of Detroit’s total defensive snaps last season, which led all Lions rookies.  A bit of a surprise considering he was the team’s third player selected.  Harris started six games for the Lions in his rookie season and totaled 29 tackles, one sack, and six missed tackles.

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Expect the trio of safeties to excel in 2020, and having both Harris and Walker learning from a veteran like Harmon, who is very familiar will head coach Matt Patricia’s defense is very beneficial.