Giants Prepare to Face Former Teammates
If the New York Giants find that the Detroit Lions have a little bit of an extra familiar feel, well, that’s because the Lions could end up playing as many as four players who not too long ago were Giants.
Running back Paul Perkins, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, defensive end Romeo Okwara and outside linebacker Devon Kennard all make their livings for the Lions these days after being either released or traded by the Giants head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman.
“Those guys have been great,” said Lions head coach Matt Patricia. “Great guys to come into our system and picked it up pretty quick. Those guys have been great since we got them.”
The marquee name of the group is Harrison, the big run-stuffing nose tackle who last year was traded just before the trading deadline for a fifth-round draft pick. Harrison, who strained his groin last week but who is not believed to be in danger of missing Sunday’s game, is tied for second on the Lions in sacks with 2.0 (with linebacker Christian Jones)
Whereas in the past Harrison has been stout against the run, ranking at or near the top of Pro Football Focus’ stats and rankings, this year he’s logged just six stops, tying him for 71st (out of 153) defensive interior linemen. He is credited with only 12 tackles through seven games played.
“I think for us, Damon has been great,” said Patricia. “He’s been working really hard to try to do everything he can do to get better, just like we all have. It’s never one person in the run game; it’s really all three levels of the defense.”
The Lions run defense, however, has had its struggles, even with Harrison in the lineup, though Patricia said it’s not one man’s fault.
“We need to be much better in the run defense. But we all take ownership. For us, it’s the defensive line; it’s the linebackers, the secondary or safety or support fit, however that works for us from that standpoint. Just trying to do everything we can to get it cleaned up.”
Kennard signed with the Lions as an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Voted a team captain by his peers two years in a row, Kennard currently leads the Lions with 3.0 sacks after finishing a half-sack shy of the team lead in sacks last year to fellow former Giant teammate Romeo Okwara, who posted 7.5 sacks to Kennard’s 7.0 in 2018.
“(Kennard) was someone I thought was very multiple, a very flexible type of player,” Patricia said. “Could play on the edge, could play back in behind the line of scrimmage, could go inside if he had to down the defensive line position. Just someone that I knew had a certain skill set that we would be able to try to use in some of our packages.”
Okwara, who was a surprise cut by the Giants last year, has been quieter this year in the sack department, posting just a half-sack and only 12 tackles. His snap counts have shrunk gradually over the last three games.
“Romeo— he’s been, since day one that we got him, we saw him a little bit in some of the practices that we had,” Patricia said.
“Extremely hard work ethic. He’s long; he’s got a great burst off the ball. He’s a guy that comes into work every single day the same. He wants to get better, wants to improve.
Perkins is the most recent of the former Giants to join the Lions. Perkins, who was waived by the Giants on September 16, was awarded off waivers to the Lions the following day. However, his stay on the Lions roster wasn’t long as on October 17, Detroit released him when they were awarded Tra Carson off waivers from the Packers, with Perkins being signed to the practice squad two days later.
With Kerryon Johnson having been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, Perkins was promoted from the practice squad. Despite his experience, though, Perkins will play a supporting role in the Lions offensive backfield behind Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, and Carson.