The New York Giants have already made moves to rebuild their defense, re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul and agreeing to a contract in principle with former Los Angeles Rams corner Janoris Jenkins. But their work is far from done, and more moves are expected.
Since then, reports have surfaced that New York Jets' nose tackle Damon Harrison has caught the Giants' eye. Harrison has a reputation as the top run defending defensive tackle in the NFL, having lead the league in the category each of the last three years according to Pro Football Focus.
So what could Harrison bring to the Giants? Let's take a look at the film and find out for ourselves We reached out to former scout and current head of the Scouting Academy Dan Hatman for his take. Hatman replied "Not sure what he gives them that they don't already have."
That's true, the Giants already have Johnathan Hankins, one of the top run defending tackles in the league himself, and Montori Hughes -- another monster of a nose tackle. But adding Harrison would allow Hankins more snaps as a pass rusher, something he did exceptionally well in 2014 when he was one of the few (perhaps only) tackle in the league to rank in the top 10 in both run defense and pass rush.
Dominating the line of scrimmage and clogging running lanes has been Harrison's calling card. It's something the Giants saw first-hand this past season as Harrison and Weston Richburg had an epic battle in the middle of the line of scrimmage.
This is the first run play of the game and the Jets are lined up in a classic 3-4 front here, with Harrison lined up directly over the center. The Giants are in a classic power "I" formation, with Will Tye lined up as an in-line tight end, Nikita Whitlock as fullback, and Rashad Jennings behind him.
This is old-school power football folks, so let's jump forward a couple seconds and see what happens.
After the snap, Harrison bulls straight ahead, standing the smaller Richburg up and pushing him into the backfield. Harrison does a great job of keeping his pad level down seizing all of the leverage. If you look carefully, his hands are inside Richburg's, forcing his to the outside, and rather than trying to meet the center's power with his own, he is only playing half of his blocker, using technique along with his power to control Richburg.
The play is effectively dead right here.
At the very end of the play we can see exactly how dominating Harrison can be. Richburg was arguably the top center in the league, a Harrison pushed him two yards into the backfield before discarding him to slam Jennings into the turf from behind.
This really was an awesome battle between the two, and two series later Richburg would get the better of Harrison to spring Andre Williams for a pair of runs to the tune of 13 and 6 yards, but Harrison won the first round.
I just mentioned that Williams had a pair of good runs against Harrison in the third series. But by the third quarter Harrison would get his payback.
As opposed to the previous play, the Jets are lined up in a 4-3 front, with Harrison lined up as a 1-Technique or between the center and guard, across from the center's shoulder. This is likely the position he would play for the Giants who's base defense is a 4-3 Under (which walks the strong-side linebacker up to the line of scrimmage). The Giants are in a three-receiver set with an offset I formation. Jerome Cunningham is lined up as the fullback and Williams is the running back.
After the snap, Harrison takes on both Richburg and Justin Pugh, controlling both players. By taking on the double-team, it opens up a hole for linebacker David Harris to attack into the backfield. As the "fullback," Cunningham has to come up to block Demario Davis, who comes up to fill his gap.
Finally, we see that Pugh has to come off his block to account for Harris. This forces Richburg to have to block Harrison one on one, which in this case is a losing proposition. Harrison uses his strength and leverage to push Richburg past him, creating an opportunity to tackle Williams who is running behind Cunningham. Had Richburg been able to sustain his block on Harrison, this likely would have been a "successful" run. However, Harrison's ability to quickly shed his blocker lets him get to Williams before he is able to get past and into the open field.
Harrison is known for his run defense, but what does he bring in the passing game? We also reached out to former NFL defensive end Stephen White for his thoughts on Harrison, here's what he said. "As long as he is a NT only. Not going to get much out of him as a 3tech."
Interestingly, when the Jets were caught on their heels by the Giants No Huddle attack, that's exactly what happened. How'd it work out?
Nowadays when most teams play a 4-3 front, they either use an Over or Under front, both of which use a 1-technique and a 3-technique. Having the best nose tackle in the league, one would expect the Jets to play him over the center even in a 4 man front.
But that isn't what they do. With the Giants in the shotgun, although Shane Vereen motions from the backfield into the slot, Harrison lines up in the 3-technique between John Jerry and Bobby Hart.
Jumping forward a couple seconds, we see the Jets use a tackle-end twist with Muhammad Wilkerson working inside to create confusion for the rookie right tackle. Rather than looping outside, like you would see with a more agile 3-technique, Harrison simply attacks the B-gap between Jerry and Hart, forcing both to block him while Wilkerson comes in behind him.
As the play concludes, we see that the Giants had a quick pass planned all along, as Eli Manning almost immediately fires the ball to Odell Beckham who was running a slant across the middle.
It was a good thing that they had a quick throw planned, because Harrison was able to split the double team as Jerry turned his attention to Wilkerson. However, Harrison tripped coming through the gap and wasn't able to impact the pass in any way. If he hadn't there was a chance that his sheer size would have clogged the throwing lane and forced Manning's pass off-target.
The play ended in a 72-yard touchdown for Beckham as he splits the Jets' coverage over the middle and runs away from the rest of their defenders.
So, Giants' fans. How would you feel about Harrison trading in his Jets green jersey for a Giants blue one?