Defensive end Charles Harris passed a significant marker in recent days when the calf injury that has hampered him for weeks suddenly began to feel much, much better — so much better, in fact, the former first-round pick rejoined practices.
And while Harris is not going to play in Sunday’s game at the Green Bay Packers, the expectation is he’ll be able to return for the Dolphins game at Indianapolis Nov. 25 -- Miami’s first game after the bye next week. That’s actually an upgrade because Harris is about to miss his fifth consecutive game.
“It seems like he’s made some really big strides here the last three days,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Thursday. “I was surprised when I saw him moving around yesterday compared to watching him last week.”
And why is this significant?
Well, Harris needs to get back on the field. He needs to get a chance to do something.
Because 2018 has not been a good year for him so far.
And that comes after his rookie year in 2017 was not exactly a good year, either.
You’ll not hear this from the team. The team (coaches) have an interest in Harris picking it up and contributing. So they’re not going to criticize him in the press. They’re not going to say Harris has not met expectations.
But my allegiance is to my readers. To you. And the truth.
(If you don’t want the truth stop reading right here and believe all is well and Charles Harris is awesome! Otherwise keep reading...)
And the truth is Harris this year has been a ghost. Beyond the fact he’s missed four games, he definitely didn’t dominate in the five games he did play.
Harris has 11 total tackles this season in those five games. Only three of those tackles are solo tackles. He does not have a sack. Or forced fumble. Or fumble recovery. He has only two quarterback hits.
So he’s tied with William Hayes and Vincent Taylor for QB hits. And he had fewer than Jordan Phillips.
All those players are long gone from the team or currently on injured reserve.
One more thing: Harris last collected a sack on Dec. 24 of 2017.
Which means Harris needs to get back soon because we’re coming up on a year anniversary since Harris has had one of his two career sacks.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because it’s important to note that at a time the Dolphins have needed the help from their 2017 draft class, which Harris headed as the first round pick, that help has been generally lacking.
Harris has obviously not contributed the past month and not to any impressive heights since he was drafted.
Cordrea Tankersley, the third round pick in 2017, is on injured reserve. This was a disappointing year for him as well.
Tankersley, you’ll recall, was the starting boundary cornerback opposite Xavien Howard when training camp opened. And within seven days he lost that job.
And then he lost the backup job.
And when the regular season began, the player who started 11 games as a rookie and had shown promise in those games, was barely a special teams player. He was a healthy scratch for two of the first three games.
But injuries and need befell the Dolphins and last week Tankersley was told he was going to get a run at cornerback snaps again. Like in the actual game against the New York Jets.
Except that late last week he blew out an ACL in practice. He wasn’t hit. He didn’t fall to the ground. It was weird, I’m told, but obviously it was serious.
So Tankersley is gone.
The 2017 draft class is under siege.
Well, how about second-rounder Raekwon McMillan. He’s starting, right? That’s good, right?
McMillan missed his entire rookie season. We know that. And that was unfortunate.
This season, he has started every game at middle linebacker. He has been at the epicenter of the Dolphins defense.
Except he hasn’t performed like it. Despite seven tackles, he had a stinker game against Detroit — so did a lot of other defenders — as the Lions rushed for 248 yards.
He was responsible for a couple of touchdown passes allowed the first couple of weeks — but of course, the Dolphins chalked that up to him getting comfortable in the defensive system.
He was good against the New York Jets last week and contributed a fumble recovery but you’ll read more on that in a moment.
And so what can we say about McMillan?
He was a three-down linebacker for the Dolphins when the season began. He played 100 percent of the downs against the New York Jets in the first meeting in September.
But he’s not that any more. He’s usually off the field on obvious passing downs lately as Jerome Baker has pushed for that job and passed McMillan.
Against the Jets last Sunday, McMillan played 55 percent of the plays. Baker played 82 percent of the plays.
And with Baker getting an interception, which he returned for a touchdown against New York, it’s hard to fathom the playing time swinging back to McMillan.
When the Dolphins picked McMillan, they believed they were getting a latter day David Harris, who current Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum drafted in 2007 for the New York Jets.
Except Harris collected 127 tackles in two of his first three seasons and the only reason he didn’t do it all three years is because he missed five games his second season. McMillan is on pace for about 87 tackles this year and that assumes his playing stays at the heights it was early in the season when he was playing between 80-100 percent of the downs -- which he didn’t do last week.
So what is this saying?
McMillan is a contributor but the former second-rounder has a long, long way to go.
This is also saying the Dolphins are getting precious little lift from the 2017 draft class.
Factor in the fact fifth-round selection Isaac Asiata had been unable to crack the 53-man roster until Friday — he was promoted from the practice squad — while the guard-needy Dolphins signed multiple street free agents to that roster, and it disappoints.
A case can be made that fifth-rounder Davon Godchaux (the second of two fifth-rounders) and sixth-rounder Vincent Taylor have been the most impressive picks of the ‘17 draft because Godchaux is a starter and Taylor was playing very well before he also got injured and went on injured reserve.
But any draft class where all three of the first three picks struggled both on the field and with injuries their first two seasons and the fourth player selected only made it onto the roster when, as Gase said they were looking for “anyone with a pulse,” it’s not a good sign. It’s not trending toward being a good draft class.
Especially not when none of those players have played exceedingly well when they weren’t injured.