The Buffalo Bills boasted the number-two overall defense in yards allowed per game for the 2018 season. Their pass defense was number one in the league, as the team allowed a minuscule 179.6 yards per game. Buffalo also notched 36 sacks, up from their 2017 total of 27.
While that sack total was an improvement over the prior year, they still ranked only 26th overall in the league in the category. Buffalo will need continued improvement in the pass rush department if they expect to dethrone the defensing Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in the AFC East.
In this installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile a pass rusher whose situational prowess could come in handy this season.
Name: Eli Harold
Height/Weight: 6’3” 243 lbs.
Age: 25 (26 on 1/20/20)
Experience/Draft: 4 years; drafted in Round 3 (79 overall) of 2015 NFL Draft by San Francisco 49ers
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 4/10/19
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Harold signed a one-year contract with the Bills this offseason. The contract is worth $895,000 overall, but Harold will only carry a $735,000 cap hit thanks to the veteran’s minimum exception. The contract has $90,000 guaranteed.
2018 Recap: Harold only played 183 defensive snaps for the Detroit Lions last season, amounting to 18.54% of the team’s total. On those snaps, he totaled ten tackles and a career-high four sacks. He appeared in 13 games and didn’t start one. He also played 104 special teams snaps, good for 24.02% of Detroit’s total.
Positional outlook: Harold and seventh-round draft choice Darryl Johnson are the only two newcomers at the defensive end position, a group that seems to have a pretty clear pecking-order established at the top. Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Shaq Lawson all figure to see the lion’s share of the snaps, so Harold will battle with Johnson, Mike Love, and Eddie Yarbrough for the fourth defensive end spot.
2019 Offseason: Harold played linebacker in Detroit and San Francisco, so this will be a new experience for him this offseason. With this kind of hybrid edge rusher becoming increasingly common in today’s NFL, seeing whether Harold has the ability to rush the passer as a true hand-in-the-dirt defensive end as opposed to as a stand-up rush linebacker will go a long way towards determining whether he makes the team or not.
2019 Season outlook: Harold has a better athletic pedigree than the other players fighting for what appears to be the last defensive-end spot, but he doesn’t have enough experience at the position to give him the definite leg up on his competition. Unless something happens to one of the top three in the rotation, Harold should be battling for a rotational role from the time camp begins until the preseason ends. If he adjusts well to a full-time role as a defensive end, he could find himself on the team as a special teamer/pass-rush specialist.