Damon Harrison. Big Snacks. #94. At 6'4", 350 pounds, he is a mountain of a man. Coming out of tiny William Penn, he was a dark horse to make the roster last year, but ended up beating the odds. Stuck behind Sione Pouha, Kenrick Ellis and Mike DeVito, Harrison failed to register a single tackle or assist. This year may be different.
Pouha is gone, lost to free agency, as is DeVito. Ellis is penciled in as the starter at nose tackle, with Harrison possibly being his primary backup. If Ellis fails to impress or is injured, Harrison might be pressed into significant playing time. What then might we expect to see if Harrison gets the call?
Judging from what I saw in the preseason a year ago, my initial thought is that Harrison projects at best as a guy who can devour double teams at the point of attack. He might be able to become an immovable object in the run game, regularly occupying two blockers and keeping the linebackers clean to make tackles. Something like Pouha's recent body of work. Little to no ability to penetrate into the backfield, no real threat of a pass rush, but highly effective against the run. This is what I envision as Harrison's ceiling. Not necessarily what he WILL achieve, just what he MIGHT achieve in the best case scenario, if everything breaks just right for him.
I did not see great athleticism from him last year, and I did not see the makings of a dynamic playmaker. But something Muhammad Wilkerson said recently is intriguing. Talking about how athletic and versatile the Jets defensive line will be this year, Big Wilk had this to say about Big Snacks:
''Truth is, we play different fronts and everybody on our D-line can play multiple positions,'' Wilkerson said. ''So it doesn't really matter with that 3-4 or 4-3 stuff. Me, Snacks (Harrison) and Q (Coples) - we all can play any position.''
That is really a surprising thing to say about Harrison. He can play any position? He belongs in the same category as Wilkerson and Coples? That implies a level of athleticism I just haven't seen. Is this really possible?
Well, maybe. Maybe Wilk was just having his Rex moment, singling out an unlikely player to heap praise upon in an even more unlikely fashion. But Wilk, as far as I can remember, has never been prone to Rex level hyperbole. In fact I can't remember another time when Wilk was spouting off about anything. So... is it possible he really believes this? And if so, could it actually be true?
I am more than a little skeptical. But let's dream for a second. What then would explain Harrison's failure to flash such athleticism in his rookie year? Well, I can think of a few things. First, he was an unheralded UDFA rookie in 2012, from a small school. No doubt he was just a bit unsure of himself, intimidated by the level of competition and quite possibly star struck. He may not have been sure he belonged, making him tentative and possibly masking the true extent of his athleticism. Until you're sure you belong at the next level, it is sometimes difficult to let your talents really shine through.
Second, he was likely overwhelmed by the speed of the pro game and the complexity of a Rex Ryan defense. Quite possibly he never felt comfortable enough in his rookie year to just relax and let instinct take over, just let it flow. Instead he may have been over thinking everything, the game not yet having slowed down for him. If so, this too could have masked his level of athleticism.
I don't know. The above explanations are not entirely implausible, but I am stuck with the image in my mind of his play in the preseason last year. A massive presence in the middle, but never penetrating, never really attacking, never flashing superior athleticism. Big Wilk thinks Big Snacks can be an athletic force, versatile enough to play any position on the defensive line. If so, maybe Harrison projects as more of a Kris Jenkins type, fully capable of penetrating, blowing up plays, getting deep into the backfield and putting severe pressure on the quarterback. I am skeptical, but that is something Wilkerson's surprising statement might imply. So I throw it out to all of you. What did you see in Harrison last year? Am I missing something? Is Wilkerson right, and Harrison really has enormous athleticism and is more than just a mountain in the middle? What do you think his ceiling is? I'm interested to know if anyone has seen what Wilkerson apparently believes he has seen. What say all of you?