Talk to Dolphins coaches, and Charles Harris’ rookie year has been a success.
“Yeah,” Adam Gase said recently, when asked if he was pleased with his first-round pick. “I'm not going to complain about what he's been doing.”
Talk to Harris and the story is much different.
Has he played pretty well in 2017?
“I guess. I don't know. I know that sacks are the most important [stat].”
By that measure, Harris has plenty of room for improvement.
He has sacked an opposing quarterback just once this season. Nineteen rookies have more sacks, led by Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson, who has 7 1/2.
Perspective: Harris was the 22nd player drafted back in April. Lawson was the 116th.
More perspective: Among pass rushers taken in the first round in 2017, Harris tied with Washington’s Jonathan Allen for last in sacks.
Granted, that narrative could change with one big game. No first-round player has more than five, including Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick.
When asked if he keeps tabs on his fellow draft classmates, Harris responded:
“I don't really got time to be checking on anybody else. At the end of the year, you get accolades and awards and all of that stuff. You've got other people that's going to check on that. That ain't my job.”
His job, according to Gase, is to be disruptive.
And even though his sack total does not reflect it, he has been.
Harris has been an average defensive end this year, according to Pro Football Focus’s grading system, but he has been much better rushing the passer than defending the run.
According to PFF’s stats, he has 14 hurries and six quarterback hits, ranking third and second on the team, respectively. He also has nine defensive stops.
“I've said this before, I never really pay attention to sacks,” Gase said. “I always look at pass disruption, how many times are you getting to the quarterback? How many times are you putting pressure on a quarterback where he has to move off the spot, has to get rid of the ball sooner than he wants to. As long as he keeps doing that, that's all that really matters to me.
Gase continued: “Just keep getting better as a young player. I've said it before, he's seen a lot of things that he's never seen before, in the run especially. His job is to get better every week and keep finding ways to just create pressure on the quarterback.”
This week will be a great test. The Dolphins got Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off his game two weeks ago by getting in his face, and Harris had one of the team’s eight quarterback hits. The rematch is Monday.
Still, Harris judges himself first and foremost by sacks, and knows he needs more in Year 2.
“I think I can do everything they ask me to do better,” Harris said. “I think that's the only criticism. To do everything better, everything faster. That's really it. Something you've got to do things outside the box. That's something I have to learn how to do. As in, you don't always have to play everything by the book. ... I've got to do what got me in the first place.”
Harris has a mentor in William Hayes, the now-injured Dolphins defensive end who reminds him to be patience. Hayes was teammates with Robert Quinn in St. Louis and then Los Angeles, and saw him take a huge leap forward after his rookie season.
Quinn had just five sacks in Year 1, but had an absurd 40 over the next three.
“To me, every thing is a repeat,” Harris said. “There's nothing new under the sun. It's the same way in my first year at [the University of Missouri]. I was underrated, I was weaker than everybody, I was undersized, all of that. The second year, I came back a lot better. Third year, I took off. Everything's a repeat.”