Once again, NFL Christmas, a.k.a. the Draft, has come and gone and the Miami Dolphins have a new slate of rookies that hope to help the team become a Super Bowl contender. Miami had the 22nd pick and the good news is they didn’t have to trade down to get that pick. That’s good news because it means the Dolphins made the playoffs the previous season; the first time since 2008. Even though they made the playoffs, the Dolphins had glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball. They began to address this by selecting edge rusher Charles Harris from the University of Missouri.
Despite extending future Ring of Honor candidate Cameron Wake, re-signing Andre Branch and trading for former L.A. Rams defensive end Williams Hayes, the Dolphins still had a need at defensive end. I have said throughout the draft season that Miami should pick up an edge rusher because only 1 of the 3 main rushers are under 30. Cameron Wake plays like an ageless wonder and I, along with many other fans hope that he can play at a high level for several more years. But Father Time is undefeated and eventually, Wake’s body will no longer work at the level he wants it to work. Hayes is 31 and on a 1 year deal - the definition of stopgap. He will work in the rotation primarily to stuff the run. Branch got a new deal from Miami this offseason and it is expected that he’ll start. But last season was his best in the NFL with 5.5 sacks. Will he build off of that or is that the ceiling to his production? Miami was well aware of this and took Harris at 22, who is a player they coveted. I watched film of three different games and this are the pros and cons that I came away with after review.
- Harris has an excellent motor. You will watch every second of those videos and you will never see Harris taking a play off. He is always doing something. It would be easy for a good player on a bad team to become discouraged and mail in a few plays, but Harris never does.
- Harris has an EXCELLENT get-off. The first thing I look for in edge rushing prospects is the get-off. Having watched Cameron Wake so much, it’s an easy trait to both appreciate and take for granted. Like Wake, Harris fires off the line of scrimmage. That get-off immediately gives him an advantage as an edge defender. That also plays into the next trait...
- He can flatten and bend to the quarterback. Having a great get-off will only work if he can turn that into a pressure. That means he has to be able to get low to the ground (flatten) and turn back into the pocket (bend) to get the quarterback. The film shows Harris can do this well and often.
- He has a good spin move. The spin move was popularized by former Colts great Dwight Freeney. Harris, like Freeney, is an undersized edge player for a 4-3 end. This is Harris’ go-to move to create pressure. It worked well for him in college.
- Harris has the capacity to bull rush. Undersized edge players, particularly speed rushers like Harris, typically aren’t expected to be able to go THROUGH an offensive lineman. However, the film showed Harris has the power to generate a bull rush and collapse the pocket, both from the edge and from the interior on stunts.
- Despite his get-off and ability to flatten and bend, Harris can get worked too far out of the pocket. A speed rush is only good if a player can turn it back to the QB. A smart offensive tackle will simply let Harris run around the arc and let the QB comfortably climb the pocket. This goes along with the next point...
- Despite his slick spin move, he didn’t appear to utilize much hand play or work counter moves outside of that spin move. NFL tackles will catch onto Harris very quick and neutralize his current array of moves. He will need to develop counter moves for when the spin or bend don’t work. He will also need to work on using his hands better in order to disengage from NFL blockers.
- To go along with lack of counter, he struggled to disengage from his bull rush. Harris’ arms are 32 & 3/8 inches long. This means NFL tackles could be able to get to him before he gets to them. He will need to work on hand usage on his power moves in order to disengage.
- Harris is not a great run defender. This is the biggest knock on him as we all know. However, the tape didn’t worry me as much as I thought it would in this aspect. Inability to disengage from blocks consistently was the biggest concern I saw on tape. As far as setting the edge, he appears to be decent in that regard, at least in the sense that he can turn a play back to an inside defender. But his arm length may mean that he will continue to struggle at this in the NFL. This won’t be a major concern if he can become even better at rushing the passer.
Here are some plays that caught my attention.
This play highlights Harris’ get-off. In this picture, the center has just moved the ball. Harris is already moving forward.
In this shot, you can see SOME the offensive linemen just beginning to move into their stance. The ball hasn’t even gotten to the quarterback yet and Harris is already two steps into his move. This type of get-off gives Harris an advantage.
Here is Harris lined up against Vanderbilt and current Arizona Cardinal draftee Will Holden.
Harris has turned the edge toward the quarterback. The tackle’s best shot is to push him wide and let the QB step forward into the pocket.
Harris was able to flatten and bend back to the QB and take him down for the sack. This was one of the highlighted plays NFL Network used after Harris was selected.
Here is another play against West Virginia. Harris was lined up on the right side. Again you can see his get-off compared to his teammates and the WVU offensive line.
Harris uses his spin move here to create a pressure. Harris is in full spin here, with his back to the tackle in this shot. Notice the left tackle’s left knee. He was fully committed to the speed rush around the edge and the spin move has him off-balance. NFL tackles will catch onto this very quickly.
Harris has a clean shot at the quarterback. The QB has to throw it fast to avoid the sack and this pass falls incomplete short to the slot receiver in the middle of the field.
Here is Harris lined up in a 2-point stance. He did that a few times on the tape I watched. Miami will likely use him in a similar fashion.
This is another example of Harris’ ability to bend around the edge. I believe it is important to note this because of the stance. When he is in a 3 or 4 point stance, he is already lower to the ground. In this stance, he presents the tackle with a larger target and is still able to bend. That may or may not be a big deal, but I thought it was. It shows position/scheme flexibility.
The quarterback and left tackle do a good enough job keeping Harris JUST far enough away to prevent the sack. Harris has the presence of mind to swipe at the ball (not a natural thing for edge players apparently), but the QB just pulls the ball back in. This pressure however forces the QB from the pocket and he makes a hurried throw deep downfield that falls incomplete. There were flags on the play, presumably defensive pass interference.
This is a run play.
Harris is in the middle of the fray. In my opinion, he does a good job of setting the edge. This looks like a typical zone run (to me), and Harris’s job is to force the running back back inside, which he does even though it appears the RB has a clear lane to the outside. He doesn’t shed the block or make the tackle, but he forces the action, which I would consider a positive play on his part.
This play ends up being a big gain for the running back, but mostly due to the defensive tackle (highlighted) being escorted from the play and then missed tackles by the linebackers. As Dolphins fans, we have seen this movie before. Too often, Jordan Phillips or Earl Mitchell played the role of the highlighted DT and Miami’s LBs have missed these tackles. That’s one reason Miami selected Raekwon McMillan in the second round: to clean up messes like this. Regardless of that, Harris does his job here forcing the RB back inside.
Here is bad run defender Charles Harris.
Harris offers little in the way of resistance, trying to lower his shoulder into the blocker. He basically bounces off and the rest of the defense folds.
As I said, Harris bounces off and the running back runs right by him. This is a case where Harris needed to engage the tackle, read the play, then disengage to attempt to make the tackle. He did none of that.
Here’s a play where despite Harris’ reputation as a poor run defender, West Virginia threw a double team at him on a run play. This was one of the few times WVU actually ran at Harris and they doubled him. The majority of the run plays were away from his side, or misdirection/screens/things of that nature. I didn’t highlight any plays from the Tennessee game, but the Volunteers employed a great deal of read-option at Harris. He crashed down most of the time, leaving Josh Dobbs a free running lane, which he abused them with.
Here is a pass play. West Virginia had three blockers in his area. They may not all have been there to specifically block Harris, as some of them appear to be expecting a blitzer. But nonetheless, they respected Harris enough to make sure he wouldn’t be the one making a play here.
Here is an interesting play. It’s a goal line run and West Virginia is going to run in it Harris’ direction.
I highlighted both Harris and a Mizzou linebacker. Harris gets off his block with a quick swim move. He is in about to be in the backfield before the running back even has the ball. That is good in my opinion. However, I’m not sure what the LB highlighted by the red arrow is thinking.
As you can see here, the offensive lineman has blocked Harris just enough to get him off-balance. However, the linebacker appears to JUST NOW be recognizing the play. He is way out of position to do anything about this play and the running back waltzing in for a touchdown virtually untouched. This is where someone with more knowledge than me needs to clarify. To me, Harris did his job by attacking that gap and the linebacker made the mistake. However, that would require knowing player responsibility for this play. I’d like to think Harris did what he was supposed to do, but I’m not sure. The swim move was nice though.
We’ll end picture time with a good run defense play by Harris.
This is another time West Virginia ran at Harris. Unlike the previously highlighted play, Harris does exactly what he should have before. He engages the tackle, recognizes the play, then sheds the block.
Having thrown the tackle to the ground, Harris is now in position to make a play. He uses his burst to keep the running back from running outside and then gets in on the tackle with the defensive tackle.
Play over! If Miami can get run defense like this from Harris, then they may have struck gold with him, given his pass rushing prowess.
I liked the pick when they made it, although I know it wasn’t popular with some fans. His role as a rookie will be as a pass rushing specialist, much like the role Cameron Wake had in 2009. He will come in on 2nd or 3rd and long situations early on and will get worked into the rotation more often as the season progresses. Looking at 2018 and beyond, I expect him to gain a little more weight and more strength to hold up against NFL caliber offensive linemen. He should be a starter as a sophomore, or at least see major snaps, depending on how well Cameron Wake is still playing. Unlike Wake, who only lines up on the left side, Harris will be moved around to either side, even used some on the interior.
Don’t just take my word for it though. Have fun reviewing the same film I watched. (and more) All video watched came courtesy of draftcountdown.com. Here are the three games I watched:
Here is the draft profile for Harris from NFL.com. I have read this at some point before the draft, but I did not read it for use on this post until after I watched the film. It was interesting to see that the write-up had similar pros and cons to what I saw on film; therefore nice to know my review wasn’t too far off from someone who does this for a living.
Tomorrow, I hope to cover at least one, if not both, of Miami’s day two draft picks. Looking forward to watching McMillan and Tankersley.