Harold Feels Wanted in Philly
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — For the first time since his college days at the University of Virginia, Eli Harold will get to put his hand in the dirt on a consistent basis and the former third-round pick is excited about the opportunity.
“I love [defensive end], man,” Harold said when 973espn.com asked about his preference, 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker, something he was drafted to do by San Francisco back in 2015. “That's my natural position. No matter what, going forward is always better than dropping into coverage a lot, so I'm excited.”
Harold, who was acquired from Buffalo for undrafted rookie OT Ryan Bates on Friday, is the second veteran defensive end the Eagles have added in the past week after camp star Joe Ostman went to injured reserve with a torn ACL, the other being Kasim Edebali.
Harold admitted being surprised by the August trade but said “it's nice to feel wanted.”
He's got a short time to open some eyes and earn a spot in a position group with three constants in Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry, along with an ascending second-year player in Josh Sweat, the hard-charging and lengthy Daeshon Hall, like Harold, a former third-round pick, and a rookie fourth-round pick in Shareef Miller. The latter three will be vying with Harold for a rotational slot on Jim Schwartz's "engine."
It's pretty evident that the Eagles are going to be very cautious with their proven commodities in preseason games. As one assistant explained to 973espn.com, practice is for the first-team, the games are for the backups.
“I'm just going to take one day at a time and attack it, give it all I got and just try to be me every day,” Harold said. “Whether it's enough time or not, I'm going to just do what I do and try to impress the best way I can and control what I can control."
One of the perks of coming to Philadelphia is Harold's position coach, Phillip Daniels, a 15-year NFL player who was a hero to Harold when playing on the Washington Redskins.
Another is familiarity with some on the roster. Safety Rodney McLeod, like Harold, is a UVA alum and Eli was the first to check on how McLeod was doing after getting banged-up late in practice on Sunday. He also described former Eagles defensive end Chris Long, another Virginia guy, as a “big brother” and mentioned playing with cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc in Detroit.
The biggest advantage for Howard though is Schwartz, who lets his outside rushers play a lot of wide-9 in an effort to generate heat with just four chasing the quarterback.
“Good body for what we are looking for,” Schwartz said. “Our scouts had liked him a couple years ago. He has had a little bit of production. He played sort of a hybrid role last year for Detroit, but we are a little bit different. Put his hand in the ground and let him come. He’s big, he’s strong and we will add him to the mix and see where it turns out, but he does have a little bit of experience. It’s a little bit different than a rookie coming in. We should get him up to speed pretty quickly.”
That process has already begun.
“It’s a business," Harold surmised when discussing such a dramatic shift in his professional life. " But to come to a new place, and I already feel it. The guys, I feel like they’ve accepted me already, and I haven’t even been here 24 hours. ... It's just a veteran team and they know how to win here."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen