Jump to content

Damon Harrison leader on the Giants Defense


joewilly12
 Share

Recommended Posts

How Giants' Damon Harrison humbled himself in front of teammates in stunning show of leadership

 
James Kratch | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy James Kratch | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on January 06, 2017 at 7:01 AM, updated January 06, 2017 at 8:50 AM
 
 
 

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Damon Harrison turned on the tape, and laid himself bare.

The Giants had fallen to the Steelers, 24-14, in Pittsburgh on Dec. 4 -- a decisive road loss that had snapped a six-game winning streak, and threw their status as a serious playoff contender into doubt. 

Harrison was not an obvious target for blame. The defensive tackle known as "Snacks" led the Giants with nine tackles. Pro Football Focus gave him credit for five run stops and the team's third-highest defensive grade, even though Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown.

But Harrison candidly called himself out. He put together a reel of plays that he believed revealed unacceptable performance and effort. Harrison stood up in a team meeting, according to several people in the room, played the film, and apologized.

 

"He said, 'I'll never give that to you guys again,'" one Giant told NJ Advance Media. "'That'll be the last time you see that.' And we ain't seen nothing but Snacks come out now. He's an animal. He's a man of his words so far."

Harrison and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo confirmed the stunning address, but declined to elaborate on specifics.

"To be completely honest, that's not something I even want to talk about," Harrison said. "I didn't do it to be glorified, or to have anyone find out about it."

Harrison's message resonated. The accountability inside the locker room grew, one veteran player said. The Giants carried Harrison's message into a season-defining 10-7 win over the Cowboys at home soon after. Now they'll carry it into Sunday's NFC Wild-Card round game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. 

The Giants enter their first postseason in five years as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, thanks to an elite defense transformed from the worst-in-the-NFLunit it was a season ago. The addition of three key free agents - cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive end Olivier Vernon and Harrison -- has been instrumental.

 

5 steps to the Super Bowl

5 steps to the Super Bowl

Here's how the Giants would draw it up.

 

But Harrison has quickly become the team's heart and soul, a dominant player on the field, and a respected leader off it.

"It was pretty enlightening. I haven't seen many guys do that," Spagnuolo said. "It was very impressive, and I thought it had a great effect on his teammates in a real positive way."

'THIS DUDE? HE'S INSANE'

Jonathan Casillas stood by his locker about 45 minutes after the Giants closed the regular season at 11-5 on Sunday with a 19-10 road win against the Redskins. Casillas was there for a 6-10 finish and the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense in 2015, so he was asked to explain the differences between then and now.

General manager Jerry Reese's free agency spending spree (and a strong draft process) helped. But Casillas said talent alone did not explain the turnaround. Two other factors came to mind.

"Attention to details. And Snacks, " he said. "[Bleeping] Snacks."

Harrison's most obvious impact comes on Sundays. He is a tremendous obstacle in the run game on first and second downs. He may come off the field on third down, but his impact is still felt.

"He's a beast, man. A beast. He's so good," Casillas continued, his smile growing wider with each word. "As linebackers, it's hard for us to make plays, because he's making all of them. He's throwing guys out of the way. He's a force. I think he's the best d-tackle in the league. I played with Gerald McCoy (in Tampa Bay), I love Gerald. He's a really good player. But this dude? He's insane."

The Giants produced plenty of impressive defensive numbers during the regular season. They ended 10th in overall defense (339.7 yard-per-game) and tied for third in rush defense (88.6 yards-per). A year ago, their third-down defense was abysmal, with opponents converting a league-high 46.96 percent against them. Now the Giants are third overall (35.29 percent), and second in scoring defense for good measure (17.8 points-per).

It's The Snacks Effect. And should continue Sunday against a vulnerable Packers rush game that is ranked 20th in the league (106.3 yards-per) and is anchored by Ty Montgomery, a converted receiver, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski. Green Bay ran for 153 yards last week against the Lions and 226 in Week 15 against the Bears. But there is little concern about the Giants' ability to stop things on the ground Sunday, starting with Harrison.

"He's like a linebacker. But he can kick any offensive lineman's ass," Casillas said. "It's amazing, watching him. And I'm right behind him, too, so I watch it happen. I watch him throw guys. One on one, he just manhandles guys."

Harrison finished the regular season with 86 tackles, third on the Giants behind safety Landon Collins (125) and Casillas (92). He also had a career-high 2.5 sacks and 49 run stuffs, according to PFF. No other defensive tackle in the NFL had more than 39, according to the analytics site, which graded Harrison the league's best interior run defender. But Harrison was not voted to the Pro Bowl in December.

His teammates are still scratching their heads.

"He should be a Pro Bowler. He should be All-Pro," linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "He doesn't get the recognition that other guys get. But he brings it each and every week. And we know what we're going to get out of him."

In a perfect world, the snub won't matter. The Giants plan to be preparing for Super Bowl LI in late January, preventing their players from attending the Pro Bowl in Orlando. But Harrison's omission still makes little sense. When he was not selected in December, he tweeted that "all it means is that I haven't earned the respect of my peers and opposing coaches. No worries, be afraid."

He doesn't have to fear about the respect of his team.

"That's all that matters at the end of the day," he said. "As long as my teammates, and coaches, and staff and everybody in this building feel like that, than, you know, to hell with everybody else."

'TALKING FROM THE HEART'

Harrison insists nothing is new. He's the same person here, that he was in Florham Park with the JetsMoney has not changed him. He was this type of leader on the other side of town, too. The world just didn't know it. 

"I've always been a vocal guy behind the scenes. To be put in this position was nothing new to me," he said. "I was the same guy with the Jets, but nobody knew about it, because I was behind the scenes. I wasn't a rah-rah guy on camera, or anything. I was just me, a talking-from-the-heart guy."

Just don't tell him he's becoming "the guy" around the Giants. 

"No, that's the guy," Harrison says, pointing to Odell Beckham Jr., who is exiting the locker room a few steps ahead of him. "OV, JPP, those are the guys, man. I'm just here."

He's a bit more, though. Running back Rashad Jennings said Harrison's address was not necessarily a turning point for the Giants, but "it definitely was a big point."

"He was just holding himself accountable. You've got one of your top dogs, and he calls himself out, not just literally, but allowing everyone to see him call himself out, and show the tape of what he can't expect," Jennings said. "It sets a precedent that everybody needs to be accountable."

Damon HarrisonHarrison meets with the media at his locker on Thursday. 

Harrison does not speak out often, according to teammates.

"I feel like he talks when he knows it's time to talk," defensive tackle Robert Thomas said. "I think that's what makes a quality leader. Knowing when to step in, knowing when to stay in the background and watch."

When Harrison does say something?

"He's one of those guys that once he speaks," Thomas said, "you feel like you can run through the damn wall."

'THE GLUE'

Harrison is as intense and serious as any Giant, when the moment calls for it. Most of the time, he's just Snacks. The jolly giant with a knack for making everyone laugh and smile, whether he is arguing his grievances after being knocked out of a locker room four square game or busting someone's chops about a new haircut.

"That's my dog right there," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "Everybody loves being around him."

Harrison has avoided the limelight since he arrived to the Giants. When he does do a group media session and the cameras are rolling, it's gold. Take Thursday's scrum at his locker, for example. His amusing jag about garnering postseason experience in the Madden video game grabbed headlines. But he also gave insight into how an fifth-year veteran from a losing team approaches his first playoff game.

 

'Snacks' buys a $1.55M Bergen home

'Snacks' buys a $1.55M Bergen home

 

"I listen," he said, referencing his teammates who have been to the postseason and won Super Bowls. "I soak everything up like a sponge."

His teammates were the sponge a few weeks ago. Harrison said there was no desired reaction. "I do things just to have guys thinking. If you do something for a reaction, it will only be good in that moment," he said. 

But he knows his words connected. 

"I don't think it was an immediate reaction ... it just sat. It sunk in, and they thought about it," Harrison said. "It's good to know that my services are being appreciated, and everything that I go through when I talk is not being taken in vein."

Certainly not.

"In my opinion, he's the glue, certainly defensively," Spagnuolo said. "Just his personality, and what he's all about, and what he does for us defensively in the run game. He's had a huge impact."

  • Upvote 1
  • Thumb Down 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still think it was the right move to let him go. What should have been done by the previous regime is to groom leaders of their own.

Of course, if we had pass rushers already from previous drafts (thanks Tanny and Idzik) then maybe we could have kept him.

You don't pay a run stuffer that much money unless you are desperate, which the Giants were. Our run defense was okay for most of the year. So the money essentially would be for leadership

Edited by UnitedWhofans
  • Upvote 1
  • Thumb Down 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

While he is of course missed now, there was a near consensus that Harrison's price was too high for the Jets to be spending on a player who always came off the field on passing downs, regardless of how great he truly was at what he did.  And frankly, the Jets run D may not have been as good as with Harrison here, but it was still probably the least-horrible thing about this year's team.  I would be thrilled if Harrison was still here, but it simply didn't seem like it could reasonably be worked out, and they did try.

The locker room stuff seems like an even bigger priority now, but that's purely in hindsight and I'm not sure if there's anything any one person could have done about it for the Jets this year on their own.

  • Upvote 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Loved Snacks and no doubt this defense needs that kind of leadership but I still hold the belief he would've been a major luxury on this defense.  We would've most likely still been 5-11 with or without Snacks.   It was also the perfect storm with the Giants having a ton of cap room and a major need ti improve their defense.  Not saying they overpaid for him but we weren't in a position to allocate that type of cap number to him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone have #s on Mo sacks last year on 3rd down?  Curious if most of his sacks were when Snacks was on the field.  

Who knows, but Mo probably would have been a Giant if we went with Snacks.  

Giants had a ton of CAP space with a franchise QB on the tail end of his prime.  Trying to buy that last championship. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He is a stud, high character guy who worked his way from nothing to a nice contract. He should've been retained, I said it all along, but hindsight is 20/20. If we had to make the decision again today we would move Sheldon for peanuts and use his money to pay Snacks.

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, BigRy56 said:

He is a stud, high character guy who worked his way from nothing to a nice contract. He should've been retained, I said it all along, but hindsight is 20/20. If we had to make the decision again today we would move Sheldon for peanuts and use his money to pay Snacks.

And then people would complain about not getting more for Sheldon

  • Thumb Down 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, jmat321 said:

Anyone have #s on Mo sacks last year on 3rd down?  Curious if most of his sacks were when Snacks was on the field.  

Who knows, but Mo probably would have been a Giant if we went with Snacks.  

Giants had a ton of CAP space with a franchise QB on the tail end of his prime.  Trying to buy that last championship. 

Anytime Mo was out in 2014 and Coples played next to Snacks he was just as good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do people realize how easy hindsight is? Like... It's really easy to make yourself upset about these things.

Mac has a plan. Is it going to work? Who knows? But part of that plan was not dedicating that much money and 5 years to Snacks...

It's not a stretch to think 2 years from now, if Snacks was on the team, people would be complaining about his cap hit as his play declined.

The dude is a great player. It sucks he's not here. I still enjoy watching him. But he just didn't fit. I wish he was on the team but I understand why they let him walk and for now I'm going to stay positive and optimistic and think that having that space and room cleared will only help the Jets. I'll look at it as one less bulk contract sitting over the team's head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, UnitedWhofans said:

Still think it was the right move to let him go. What should have been done by the previous regime is to groom leaders of their own.

Of course, if we had pass rushers already from previous drafts (thanks Tanny and Idzik) then maybe we could have kept him.

You don't pay a run stuffer that much money unless you are desperate, which the Giants were. Our run defense was okay for most of the year. So the money essentially would be for leadership

It was the wrong move to keep Wilk and let Snacks go its very hard to find a high end NT if you want to run a 3-4 .... He was also the best run stopper in the NFL along with grabbing double teams on a regular basis. And this ain't hindsight I said from the beginning the DL in a 3-4 are Occupiers you spend your money at the LB position NOT the defensive line. So now were stuck with Idiot Sheldon who's value goes down with every stupid comment and Wilk who looks like he wants to coast with his 80 mil. Both should have been let go and the Defense should have moved forward with Williams and Harrison both of whom are Above average Lineman in a 3-4 scheme and that's rare to have TBH

Its time to cut losses and get some real LB's in here if you look at all the great 3-4 defenses its always been about LB's and ours have deteriorated over the years. Also if your running a 3-4 you don't draft 225 pound LB's you draft 250 pound LB's Bowles wanted the light fast guy in Lee but he does not fit our scheme and if we continue running the 3-4 he Never will.

Also you don't draft LB's who you project as pass rushers you draft solid football players who can play the position and let them develop into pass rushers if need be the good ones usually do.

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, bgivs21 said:

Hits you right in the feels as a Jet fan. Great player, great guy, fan favorite, turned into a great leader. Unfortunately for us, we couldn't resign him because of the position we were in. 

what position ? Stupidity ? we could have taken less in draft picks for Wilk and put Sheldon on the market as well for picks then drafted LB's we didn't we made our decision and it was in typical Jets fashion STUPID

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

35 minutes ago, Smashmouth said:

It was the wrong move to keep Wilk and let Snacks go its very hard to find a high end NT if you want to run a 3-4 .... He was also the best run stopper in the NFL along with grabbing double teams on a regular basis. And this ain't hindsight I said from the beginning the DL in a 3-4 are Occupiers you spend your money at the LB position NOT the defensive line. So now were stuck with Idiot Sheldon who's value goes down with every stupid comment and Wilk who looks like he wants to coast with his 80 mil. Both should have been let go and the Defense should have moved forward with Williams and Harrison both of whom are Above average Lineman in a 3-4 scheme and that's rare to have TBH

Its time to cut losses and get some real LB's in here if you look at all the great 3-4 defenses its always been about LB's and ours have deteriorated over the years. Also if your running a 3-4 you don't draft 225 pound LB's you draft 250 pound LB's Bowles wanted the light fast guy in Lee but he does not fit our scheme and if we continue running the 3-4 he Never will.

Also you don't draft LB's who you project as pass rushers you draft solid football players who can play the position and let them develop into pass rushers if need be the good ones usually do.

Then why would you spend money on Snacks if you are supposed to spend money on the LB position?

That seems like a contradiction

  • Thumb Down 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

45 minutes ago, Smashmouth said:

what position ? Stupidity ? we could have taken less in draft picks for Wilk and put Sheldon on the market as well for picks then drafted LB's we didn't we made our decision and it was in typical Jets fashion STUPID

Lol trade Sheldon, the guy who was suspended the first 4 games of the year in 2015 & the first of this year. Good luck with that buddy. I love the guy, but no you don't sign Snacks over Mo. Stop being ridiculous. 

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, UnitedWhofans said:

Then why would you spend money on Snacks if you are supposed to spend money on the LB position?

That seems like a contradiction

Not to just argue with you about the same topic in two threads (but I'm about to)

I think we shoulda kept Snacks. The Pats paid WIlfork top dollar for their standards to be a 3-4 NT up until his mid 30's, Kris Jenkins made changed our defense when he was healthy. The Chargers had some NT that was amazing when we played them in the playoffs in mid 2000s don't feel like looking him up.

In general one of the easiest ways to attack the 3-4 defense is running the ball up the middle. Obviously 3 d linemen compared to 4 is going to is going to give the offensive line some sort of advantage. The DE's are there to occupy blocks, and and elite NT consistently demands double teams (C is generally weakest position across the oline). I understand that a elite speed rushing OLB in the 3-4 is more valuable than a NT, but Wilkerson was not a speed rushing OLB.

Snacks just seems to be a special player. He is probably the best NT in the league and his leadership, the surplus of run stuffing DE's on the roster should have made it easy to let Wilkerson walk and get a comp pick back. Wilkerson was late to meetings in the past, Joe Klecko publicly said at points he sees Wilkerson take plays off.

By franchising Harrison, he would have started at like 13.9 mill. The jets would have had more leverage in negotiating a long term deal. He might not have held out,  since he's a leader.

I'm a big believer there are always exceptions to every rule, and even if common philosophy is it is not wise to invest  >10 mill a year in a NT may be right 95% of the time, but not when it comes to players like Snacks or WIlfork, a healthy Kris Jenkins.

Just there aren't many NT's like them at one time. We just let one walk away

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, hokiejetfan92 said:

Snacks just seems to be a special player. He is probably the best NT in the league and his leadership, the surplus of run stuffing DE's on the roster should have made it easy to let Wilkerson walk and get a comp pick back. 

Just there aren't many NT's like them at one time. We just let one walk away

The problem is that Wilkerson was coming off of a season with 11 sacks. So he was more than a run stuffing DE. He was a pass rusher. And in the modern NFL, that is worth its weight in gold.

And in all honesty, it kind of shows what Macc thinks of Deon Simon, who played well this year.

  • Thumb Down 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

44 minutes ago, bgivs21 said:

Lol trade Sheldon, the guy who was suspended the first 4 games of the year in 2015 & the first of this year. Good luck with that buddy. I love the guy, but no you don't sign Snacks over Mo. Stop being ridiculous. 

You need to stop being ridiculous do you even understand the 3-4 defense ? Most important part of the line is the NT they are hard to find and good ones are very rare. Having 4 DT's on the line like we did at times is what's ridiculous. Snacks can play with a true 3-4 and do well. Paying all those DT's is dumb when we lack LB's to play in that scheme

 

33 minutes ago, dbatesman said:

We were 1st in rush defense DVOA this season.

Of course we were when you have safeties in the box as much as we did your going to be good against the run what did that scheme do for us up top ? You can stop anything you want in the NFL with bodies but one dimensional football is a losing proposition .

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...