Indianapolis — Harold Landry promises explosion off the snap once he finds a home in the NFL.
So it probably should be no surprise that the Boston College defensive end wasted no time in getting straight to the point during his formal media session Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. The first question he fielded: Who’s the best pass rusher in this year’s draft?
“I am,” Landry said, without the slightest hesitation. “Nobody in this class has a first step like mine, the bend like mine and the burst to the quarterback like me. I am not saying I’m perfect — there are plenty of thing I can improve on in my game — but in this draft I do believe I’m the best pass rusher.”
And with that said, it’s not hard to believe he’ll be a candidate for the Lions’ first-round pick (20th overall) in next month’s draft.
Because the connection between the Lions and Landry, who had a formal interview with the team Friday night in Indianapolis, goes beyond the team’s obvious pass-rushing needs. Or the changes new head coach Matt Patricia might make in Detroit’s defensive scheme. One that Landry, by the way, says he’d fit “for sure,” after talking with some of the Lions coaches, despite checking in at slightly over 6-foot-2 and 251 pounds here at the combine.
It’s also because Landry credits the Lions’ new defensive coordinator, veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni, with getting him to this point, on the verge of a promising NFL career. Pasqualoni, a 45-year coaching veteran, spent the last two seasons coaching the defensive line at Boston College.
“He played so much of a role in my development as a player it’s crazy,” said Landry, who led the nation with 16.5 sacks as a junior in 2016 but was hampered by an ankle injury last season. “Not just on the field, but in the classroom. He turned me into a student of the game. I learned so much with him. Just being in the meeting room and learning the art of football at my position. It changed my whole mindset and whole approach to the game and what I need to do to carry myself as a professional.”
With the weight he’s carrying, he knows the questions are coming about what role he’ll play in the NFL. Some will say he’s too small to line up at defensive end in a four-man front, others will wonder about his ability to drop in coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“The more you can do in this league the more valuable you are to the team — they definitely preach that,” Landry said. “I’m pretty sure I will be doing outside linebacker drills here at the combine. I can drop. I can cover. I can do what is asked from a 3-4 outside linebacker and I can rush from a two-point stance. On third down, obviously rush the passer. That is what I am out there to do. I think I will excel at that.”
He certainly did in college, so much so that he considered entering the draft after that impressive junior season. Teams have asked him about the drop-off in production, which stemmed from a midseason ankle injury suffered late in a three-sack performance against Virginia Tech. Landry tried playing through it the following week against Louisville, then rolled the ankle the next game at Virginia “and they shut me down.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I would have had double-digit sacks if my ankle didn’t get hurt,” said Landry, who finished with only five. “My confidence in my talent level hasn’t slipped one bit.”
Nor has his motor, which was a big part of his success as a junior, when he racked up 22 tackles for loss and a whopping seven forced fumbles.
“To be honest, when I burst to the quarterback, I just try and knock the hell out of them,” Landry said. “Especially if you are coming from his blind side, you should be getting a strip sack. That is what you should be taught when you’re coming around the edge. That’s what I was taught by Coach Pasqualoni.”
Asked what he thinks the Lions defense will look like with Pasqualoni joining one of his former assistants in Patricia — just as he did at Boston College with Steve Addazio — Landry laughed.
“Probably insane, to be honest with you,” he said. “That man is such a great coach, it is ridiculous. He pays so much close attention to the small details every single day. As the days add up, they will see the progress in their defense.”
But will they first add Landry to that defense?
“It would be awesome, because I know his coaching style and I’ve had success with it,” he said. “It would be awesome to reunite.”