The Detroit Lions boosted their chances of slowing down Seattle’s running game and contending in the NFC North with one major move.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn acquired Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick, adding one of the NFL’s top interior defensive linemen to help right away. He began practicing with his new team Thursday.
“It shows we want to win now,” Detroit defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “Bob is always up to something. He’s not trying to win later, or to rebuild.”
The timing seems perfect for the Lions, who host the Seahawks on Sunday. Seattle has emerged as one of the NFL’s best running teams, helping it win three of four after losing the first two games of the season. The Lions have been one of the league’s worst against the run, and yet have overcome the weakness well enough to also win three of four after starting 0-2.
Suddenly, Detroit’s defense got better on the ground thanks to the 6-foot-5, 355-pound Harrison.
“Snacks has been a big-timer for a long time,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Big presence. Really good in the running game and disruptive in the pass rush, too.
“So, it’s a great get for them.”
Here are some other things to know about a matchup of 3-3 teams at Ford Field:
SPREAD THE WEALTH
Carroll has made clear Chris Carson will be the starting running back. That does not guarantee Carson will get the vast majority of the carries because Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny also merit playing time.
Carson is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has two 100-yard games. Davis also has a 100-yard game and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. Penny ran for nearly five yards per carry in limited action in Seattle’s last game against Oakland and is getting six-plus rushing attempts per game.
Even with quarterback Russell Wilson carrying the ball just a few times per game on average, Seattle ranks seventh in the league in rushing with 127.8 yards per game.
Detroit, in the pre-Harrison average, gave up 139.3 yards rusher per game to rank No. 30 against the run.
Detroit tight end Michael Roberts is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions. That’s quite a feat considering he has caught just four passes, on four targets, in the three games he has been healthy enough to play in his second season.
The Lions drafted Roberts in the fourth round last year after he led the nation in touchdowns by tight ends, scoring 16 at Toledo.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t control the red zone in college, and I’m doing what they brought me here to do,” Roberts said.
The off week appeared to fall at a good time for the Seahawks. They are expected to have linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson on the field for the first time this season. Wright has been out since having knee surgery following the third preseason game. Dickson missed all of training camp and the first six games with upper leg injuries that landed him on the non-football injury list.
Seattle found capable replacements for Wright in Barkevious Mingo and Austin Calitro. Dickson’s return should boost a position group that’s seen attrition with Will Dissly’s season-ending knee injury and Nick Vannett’s lingering back problems.
Seattle also should have rookie defensive lineman Rasheem Green back after missing three weeks due to a lingering ankle injury.
WHAT A RUSH
The Lions are No. 11 in rushing offense, averaging 122.3 yards, a dramatic improvement from ranking last in 2017. Rookie Kerryon Johnson ran for a career-high 158 yards in last week’s win at Miami, taking advantage of holes created by the improved offensive line.
“We have to build upon the good performances because nobody will care if we aren’t consistent,” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. “Our improved running game has taken the wind out of the sails of pass rushers. We’re making them play the run and the physical play can wear those pass rushers out eventually.”
Seattle defensive end Frank Clark set career highs with 2 ½ sacks and two forced fumbles in the last game, a 27-3 win at Oakland. He earned NFC defensive player of the week honors for the performance that was made even more impressive because he missed much of the second half when he was sick.
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