Miami Dolphins

Charles Harris has two career sacks, but he says he is improving ‘exponentially’

Miami Dolphins DE Charles Harris on scuffles in the ‘dog days of training camp’.

Miami Dolphins DE Charles Harris talks about scuffles in the "dog days of training camp".
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Miami Dolphins DE Charles Harris talks about scuffles in the "dog days of training camp".

The Dolphins’ defensive line was a terror Sunday against the Jets, totaling 21 tackles — including nine for loss.

In short, it was the vision the Dolphins had for the group when the front office assembled it in the spring.

With one notable exception: Charles Harris was again largely quiet. The second-year defensive end still has not had the breakout game the Dolphins have believed is coming since they took him in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Harris’ official stat line through two games: one assisted tackle, one quarterback hit and zero sacks.

It’s certainly not the start Harris wanted after a similarly quiet rookie season (he had just 19 tackles and two sacks in 2017), when he was admittedly in a “dark place” mentally and spiritually.

But Harris was upbeat during a conversation with the Miami Herald on Sunday, and insists that he is improving “exponentially” — even if the statistics do not reflect it.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Harris said. “I ain’t worried about it. I know I’m doing everything I can to be a professional, not just on the field, not just in practice. I’m going to do everything off the field I can to be a professional. I’m not worried about the sacks, I’m not worried about the numbers. I know I can ball.”

In a Dolphins’ meeting room, Harris said, there’s a graph that charts improvement of not just Harris, but also his teammates. Harris’ trend line is up, he insisted.

“I feel like I’m exponentially growing, each and every game,” Harris said. “I’m just getting better and better, getting a better feel for it. It’s all going to come out.”

The question without a clear answer: When?

The Dolphins have not needed him to be a star so far in Season 2, but at some point, a first-round pick needs to sack the quarterback. But his opportunities to do so have actually decreased from last season.

Harris was on the field for 47.5 percent of the Dolphins’ defensive plays as a rookie (third most on the team behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch). The arrival of Robert Quinn this offseason of course took snaps from Harris — and the Dolphins’ plan all along was to rotate their defensive linemen regularly — but Harris has slid behind even William Hayes this season, in terms of usage.

Harris has been a part of just 45 of the team’s 134 defensive snaps in 2018 (33.6 percent), the lowest participation rate among the Dolphins’ five defensive ends and ahead of only Vincent Taylor on the entire defensive line.

Part of the explanation is that Harris is a good special teams player, and the Dolphins have used him more than any other defensive lineman in that capacity. But again, he was drafted first and foremost to get to the quarterback, and so far that has not happened. (Granted, Harris has not had any luck either; he had a sack against the Jets erased by an Andre Branch holding call.)

“I feel like he’s had some plays,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We had a couple of penalties ... where he was getting some pressure there, which they don’t make the stat sheet. But I think he’s doing what we’re asking him to do. We’ve just got to keep applying that pressure. He’s one of those guys and that’s why we have so many guys up because when we move from one guy to the next, it’s a different style of player and he still has that speed that those other guys have and he can turn the corner and put the pressure on the quarterback we need.”

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke acknowledged Thursday that Harris does get frustrated at times, and the coaching staff has talked to him about not pressing.

Harris added: “You’ve always got to be ready, because it’s not like 1s, 2, anything like. It’s whoever gets called goes out, situational. To the outside, it might look sporadic, but to the inside, we know. You can’t get a fix on the rotation. It is what it is.”

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