From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Sticking with their plan for an exhaustive search to replace Andy Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles added Lovie Smith to their list of candidates.The Eagles will interview Smith for their coaching vacancy on Thursday, making him just the second former head coach to be considered for the job.Smith was fired last Monday after going 81-63 in nine seasons with Chicago. He led the Bears to three division titles, two trips to the NFC championship game and a loss to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl following the 2006 season. Despite winning 10 games this season, Smith lost his job after the team went 3-5 following a 7-1 start and missed the playoffs.The Eagles, who fired Andy Reid after 14 seasons, also plan to interview Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley this week. They've also received permission to interview Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.Owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski already have interviewed Atlanta assistants Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Oregon's Chip Kelly. O'Brien and Kelly chose to remain at their schools.Nolan is the only one among the coordinators with previous head coaching experience. He was 18-37 in 3 seasons with San Francisco."It's flattering when someone wants to talk with you," Nolan said. "Philadelphia is a great organization. They have a tremendous owner, much like we do here. I think whoever ends up with that job is going to do a good job and also appreciate the fact that is a great organization. They don't change coaches very often. It's been 14 years since they changed the last time, and that's a credit to their entire organization -- not just to Andy, who I think is a hell of a coach -- but it's a real credit to them."Like I said, for someone it's going to be a great opportunity to be with a great organization, great owner and all those good things. Hopefully we're still playing, so, we'll just keep on playing."The Eagles went 4-12 this season and finished in last place in the NFC East. Reid, dismissed last Monday, was hired as coach in Kansas City.The 54-year-old Smith interviewed last week with the Buffalo Bills, who hired Doug Marrone to replace Chan Gailey.Smith was a defensive coordinator in St. Louis before taking over in Chicago in 2004. He helped the Rams improve from allowing an NFL-worst 29.4 points per game in 2000 to just 17.1 in 2001 when they reached the Super Bowl and lost to New England.In Chicago, Smith's defenses finished in the top four in points allowed and yards allowed four times, including this season. But the Bears finished in the top 10 in points just once and never placed higher than 15th in total yards. They were second in scoring in 2006 when Smith guided the Bears to an NFC championship victory with Rex Grossman at quarterback.Smith's teams had double-digit wins four times and only three losing seasons out of nine. But the Bears reached the postseason just three times and didn't earn a playoff berth in five of Smith's last six years.
David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl.
What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.
But in a roundabout way he might.
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There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.
If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders.
Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.
Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).
For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich.
We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.
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