“Ugh. Another wasted 1st round pick.”
“Not a good pick. We should have taken Taco Charlton instead.”
“Why? Reuben Foster was still on the board!”
Those were just a few of the comments spewed on Twitter after the Dolphins selected Missouri defensive end Charles Harris with their first pick in the 2017 draft. It’s not uncommon for a fan base to be divided on a draft pick. In fact, you see it with practically every single selection. It’s always unfair and unwarranted. Logically, you want to give the player time to play some actual games before any declarations are made. Logically.
With Harris though, the negative feedback on his play grew louder as the preseason came to a close. Fans pointed to his goose egg in the sack column. They said he was a liability against the run. They, yet again, announced that *insert rookie here* would have been a better pick. Fans became more and more negative, with a handful already calling him a bust.
Now four games into his NFL career, there is one thing that’s noticeable with Harris watching his tape. One thing that some might have missed or maybe didn’t care about because they only care about the stat sheet. One thing that is getting increasingly harder to ignore:
This kid is pretty good.
No, he didn’t have any sacks in the preseason or during the first three regular season games, but the 22-year-old has made his presence known in the offensive backfield. Twice in the opener against the Chargers, he put pressure on quarterback Philip Rivers, causing an incomplete pass. Last past Sunday in London, Harris applied pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees on more than one occasion. They won’t show up on the stat sheet, but these are plays that are essential to being a disruptive pass rusher. Head Coach Adam Gase echoed those sentiments last week, saying he sees improvement in Harris’ game, despite what the stats say. At one point in the London game, Harris successfully read a screen pass, and ran down speedy Saints receiver Ted Ginn for a short gain. The more you watched, the more you see exactly what endeared the Dolphins to use a 1st round pick on him.
And then Week 5 came along. Late in the 4th quarter, with the Dolphins clinging to a 16-10 lead against Tennessee, the Titans faced a 3rd down at their own 39 yard line. Harris shot out of a cannon on the snap, bended around the left tackle, and drilled quarterback Matt Cassel for his first career sack. Clinching a Dolphins victory. It was the kind of moment the front office envisioned on draft night. The kind of moment that turns average players into stars.
Harris is a high-motor, high-energy player. He flies up and down and all around the field. He doesn’t take his job lightly. After he was drafted, he reached out to Hall Of Fame pass rusher Jason Taylor for advice on how to take his game to another level. During camp, he constantly picked at the brains of Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, and Andre Branch. Always keeping a close eye on how they prepare. Always looking for tips to better himself. Always eager to learn.
Cameron Wake’s influence on Harris is evident. In some ways, they look like the same player. Harris has that same explosive first step off the ball that gives him an advantage over even the best offensive linemen. The way Harris uses his hands for leverage and bends the arc reminds you of Wake as well. Having one of the league’s best pass rushers to learn from is a blessing no one can ignore. Harris does need to tune up a few of his pass rushing moves. It’s something he himself admits. However, that’s something every young pass rusher has to work through. Harris’ outstanding work ethic leaves no doubt in my mind that those moves will be perfected over time. After all, he has one of the best by his side to help him along the way.
Charles Harris is a guy that “gets it”. He didn’t come to Miami as a 1st round pick expecting special treatment. He came in with the mindset that he has to prove himself and earn playing time. Little by little, you’re seeing all that hard work pay off. In Week 4, he was the 8th best edge rusher according to PFF with a grade of 83.3. In Week 5, he won the game with his first NFL sack. Sometimes all it takes is a little patience before young pups start proving they belong. You’re seeing that now with Harris. He belongs, and he’s going to be disrupting opposing offenses for a long time.
Game changing plays like we saw Sunday isn’t an aberration. For Harris, it’s only the beginning.
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