San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eli Harold is ready for his third year in the NFL to be his break out season. He was hampered by an injured toe during most of 2016, which was fixed surgically in late January. Harold tore the ligament in his toe in October vs. Tampa Bay and had nerve blocking shots before every game thereafter. The linebacker explained that very long needles were used and that it was not pleasant. “Your feet are very delicate. It hurt so bad.”
2017 brings a new regime to Santa Clara as well as a new defense and Harold is excited to be a part of it. He feels that the one gap scheme allows the team to play fast and utilizes the skills of the players on the defensive line to the best of their ability. Harold added that it’s a perfect fit, especially for players like Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Tank Carradine who are now playing in positions they were built to play in. He added that it could even be one of the best front sevens in the league.
The new scheme has Harold flip flopping on both sides of the field now. It is a little bit of an adjustment because he has never played from the left side of the defense. He believes it will show his athleticism not only rushing but dropping back in coverage as well.
Most of all, Harold believes the defense is having fun. You can see it during practice when the defense makes a play; a tipped ball, an interception or a forced fumble. There’s enthusiastic jumping and yelling from the sidelines. Harold says it’s the same in the film rooms where defensive coordinator Robert Saleh shows film of highlights as well as “loafs.”
A loaf would be any time a player hits the ground, doesn’t run to the ball, or stands blocked. A player can reduce a ground loaf by sprinting to the ball after getting back up. Loafs are not only shown to the group on film but they are charted. Harold believes little things like this get guys going while still having fun. It also keeps the attention of players, particularly of Harold who says he suffers from ADD.
The new, simpler defensive scheme is already approved by many of the players, we just have to wait until August to see how successful it will be on the field.