Damon Harrison named Run Defender of the Year by PFF

The Detroit Lions‘ nose tackle Damon Harrison has been recognized by Pro Football Focus as the Run Defender of the Year for the fourth year in a row.

Harrison has built a reputation as an elite run defender and his 2018 season only continued to add to his growing legacy. His 93.9 run defense grade this past year makes 2018 the fourth consecutive season in which Harrison has earned a grade higher than 90.

Damon Harrison’s 50 total run stops led all defenders regardless of position this season. What’s truly impressive is that despite a change in scheme and personal, Harrison’s production wasn’t negatively impacted. Since being traded by the New York Giants to the Lions in Week 7, Harrison racked up 30 run stops which would have ranked fourth among all interior defenders over the course of the entire regular season.

Helping improve the Detroit Lions defense

It doesn’t take a lot of arguing to prove that the Lions’ ability to stop the run improved after Damon Harrison arrived.

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In their first six games of the season, the Lions were awful against the run. The defense had the 26th ranked cumulative run defense grade of just 69.0. The defense also only had 81 run stops, which ranked 21st in the league.

Harrison made his debut with the Lions in Week 8 (reminder that the Lions had their bye week in Week 6), and over the last 10 games of the season the Lions’ run defense saw tremendous improvement. During that final stretch, the Lions had the second highest run defense grade in the league at 91.7, just .1 behind the league-leading Houston Texans. They also ranked third in run stops during the final 10 games.

Trading for Harrison may be one of the best moves the Lions have made in years, and with Harrison signed through the 2020 season the move should continue to benefit the team in 2019 and beyond.

How does Pro Football Focus calculate their run defense grades?

Pro Football Focus’ run defense grade is linked to their run-stop percentage metric. PFF doesn’t let you see exactly how the sausage is made, but here is what we know about how the run-stop percentage is calculated.

Their run-stop percentage figure is the number of defensive stops a defender makes against the run compared to the number of snaps he played in run defense. Obviously, the number of snaps a player plays against the run can have a huge impact on the percentage. To combat this, PFF averages out the number of stops per snap to determine how impactful a player was on a per-play basis.

A stop constitutes a ‘win’ for the defense or conversely a ‘loss’ for the offense. PFF describes a ‘stop’ further as an offensive gain on first down that is kept to less than 40 percent of the line to gain, less than 50 percent of the line to gain on second down, and any third- or fourth-down play kept without a first down or touchdown.


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