The New York Giants had an awful pass rush last season, and one of the reasons was that they also had an awful run defense. The Giants hope to help the pass rush with a healthier Jason Pierre-Paul and the addition of Olivier Vernon. The addition of run-stuffing defensive tackle Damon Harrison should also help, since it's hard to put your defense in position to rush the passer without slowing the opposition's rushing attack first.
Let's take a closer look at Harrison, the former New York Jets tackle who signed a five-year, $46.25 million contract ($24 million guaranteed), as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster.
2015 Season in Review
In terms of raw numbers, Harrison had a career-best 72 tackles (39 solo) for the Jets last season, to go along with a half-sack. Harrison ranked No. 77 on the Pro Football Focus list of the top 101 players of 2015, and PFF said his run stop percentage of 18.1 was the highest that the analytics web site had ever recorded for an interior defensive player. Harrison was part of a Jets defense that was second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (83.4) and third in rushing yards allowed per play (3.58). By contract, the Giants were 24th in the league in both categories.
2016 Season Outlook
Harrison, through his social media presence and the affable way in which he responds to the media, if already an incredibly popular Giant. That popularity will increase if he does what the Giants signed him to do -- help them shut down running games.
Harrison will play a slightly different role for the Giants than for the Jets. Gang Green features a 3-4 defense and Harrison was the nose tackle, lined up directly over the center. With the 4-3 based Giants Harrison will also be a nose tackle, but will usually line up shading one side or the other of the center rather than directly over him.
"It is a different scheme. Coach Spags has things that he does totally different from what I am accustomed to," Harrison said. "You would think you would just be sitting in the middle stopping the run, which is what I am used to doing, but, no, there are some different things."
The Giants hope that tackles Harrison and Johnathan Hankins, along with defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, can control the line of scrimmage on passing downs and in short-yardage situations, something the Giants have been unable to do in recent years.
The Giants would like it very much if Harrison is part of a group that controls the line of scrimmage and allows the rest of the defense to "pick up the scraps," a phrase used recently by linebacker Keenan Robinson