The primary media focus of the current NFL Scouting Combine is identifying who will go in the first round of next April’s draft, but Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Wednesday talked about the team’s plans for last year’s first-round pick Charles Harris.
“He’s going to compete for the starting job,” Gase said of Harris.
That means Harris and veteran Andre Branch will likely be battling for the defensive end spot opposite Cameron Wake on the other side of the defensive line.
And Gase is apparently fired up about having Harris join the competition.
“I’ll be excited to see him kind of have a bigger role this year,” Gase said during his on-the-record session with reporters at the combine. “We kind of tried to use him more in those passing situations than making him more of an every down player. It’s always interesting that first year when [defensive ends] come in from college, that transition from the play-action passes or the run game, having to transition to a pass. It’s not as easy as you think. When it’s third down you see that’s really where he’s most comfortable.
“I think the more football he plays the better he’s going to get. I thought he had a pretty good year this year. He did a lot of good things and we were excited about what he showed us.”
1. Charles Harris had 19 total tackles last year, which was tied for 16th on the team.
2. Harris had two sacks last year, which was tied for fourth on the team.
3. Harris started two games.
And some thoughts:
While Gase thinks Harris had “a pretty good year,” I don’t see that. And I’d be worried if Charles Harris thought he had a pretty good year.
Of course, I don’t expect the coach to rip the player. But it wouldn’t hurt to say something akin to, “Charles Harris was solid and needs to get much better.”
That’s not an insult. And it has the added benefits of being true and sending a message to the player that he needs to do better.
The truth is Harris has potential. He has a great work ethic. He plays hard. He is not a bust — not even close, at this early stage.
But two sacks and 19 tackles isn’t a good season for a first-round draft pick. I would expect first-round picks to have more of an impact. And, yes, pretty quickly.
Harris did not. He is only the second Dolphins first-rounder who didn’t immediately start a majority of the games as a rookie dating back to 2006. The other one was Dion Jordan.
And the thing is the Dolphins need someone to step up opposite Wake. Because Branch, who was hurt most of last season and underwent surgery this offseason to correct the issues, was mediocre at best. He collected 4.5 sacks and 23 total tackles.
So Harris collecting fewer sacks and fewer total tackles and not being able to overtake the veteran for playing time isn’t “a pretty good year.”
Harris will have a chance to have his first good NFL year in 2018.
We’ll get a hint whether that’s likely if he wins the coming competition against Branch.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero