The San Francisco 49ers switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense means changes in how they will use linebackers and defensive linemen. They’ll spend a majority of their defensive snaps in sub-packages, but there are still enough base snaps to go around that there will be some notable changes with the use of only three linebackers, compared to four.
Eli Harold faces a tough competition for playing time at linebacker and defensive end. He confirmed in a recent radio interview with ESPN 941’s Matthew Hatfield that he is playing SAM linebacker in the base defense, and defensive end in the team’s nickel. In the former position, he is behind Ahmad Brooks on the depth chart. In the latter position, he is competing with Brooks, Aaron Lynch, Elvis Dumervil, Tank Carradine, and others.
Harold had some interesting comments about body changes he was making in his first two seasons in the NFL. Trent Baalke expected the 3-4 OLBs to be up near 270, which was a sizable gain for him.
The biggest difference was learning the game, getting used to the guys in the locker room, knowing your role. Rookie year obviously I didn’t play that much, but I did all I needed to do, I did all the coach asked me to do. And going into my second year, our general manager at the time wanted me to pack on some muscle. I had got up to 270, believe it or not, the year before. Previously I was like 245. It was hard holding all that weight, and I lost a step. I really didn’t feel like myself, and I dropped back down and played at 265 last year. I wouldn’t say I had the season that I wanted to have, but I definitely showed signs of improvement, which helped me to make a few plays, and do a little bit to help our team. Year 2 is year 2, and I’m just looking forward to this year. I can’t wait.
I’m curious to see what kind of wait he measures in at this year. He still needs to bring a decent amount of size for the end role, but maybe we see him slip down closer to 260 than 270.
Harold also talked about how excited he is with the change in leadership. He talked about Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh, and what they bring to the table:
Ah man, for sure. I love everything that they stand for. It’s all positive vibes in our facility. I feel like everyone’s mind’s changed. Last season’s behind us, and I love the message that Coach Shanahan and John brings. They’re on the same page, which is the most important thing, starting over. I feel like in previous years, obviously the record reveals that, that I guess the coach and the general manager wasn’t on the same page. Going forward, I love what Coach Shanahan’s doing. He’s arguably the greatest offensive coordinator in the NFL right now. And his father, also did it with the Denver Broncos, and so on and so forth. Kyle has proven that he can take a team, no matter who the quarterback is, and have a really productive offense.
And I feel like the guy that we brought in, Robert Saleh, he was the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks when they won their Super Bowl a few years back. I like the staff. It’s a really good staff, they know how to win, and we got the players to win. So I’m excited man.
Harold was on in part to promote his Virginia football camp in July. He also had very passionate comments about the National Anthem protest, which I’m going to transcribe later. He wrapped things up with some rapid fire Q&A,
Favorite pre-game hype song: In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Favorite comedian: Bernie Mac
Loudest road stadium in NFL: Seattle
Coolest pro teammate: Joe Staley
Coolest pro opponent: Larry Fitzgerald
Fastest player he’s faced in the NFL: Marquise Goodwin
The whole interview is a fun one, and I highly recommend giving it a listen here.