Earlier this week, Brian Flores was talking about Charles Harris, and I had a flashback to Adam Gase.
Flores, the current Miami Dolphins head coach, was asked about the production (or lack thereof) from the defensive end so far this season.
Harris has three solo tackles and five assists in four games this season. So eight total tackles in four games. And the man who was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft to get after the quarterback has zero sacks, continuing the same career arc he has had since he joined the team because Harris now has three career sacks in 31 games.
And so Flores explained how zero sacks and the guy losing his starting job in the last game to Taco Charlton is not really as bad as what the common person might think. Because football coaches and football players and people who really know football know it’s not really about stuff like sacks or generally hitting the quarterback.
“I think when you talk about production, I think people think sacks, interceptions and tackles,” Flores said. “I think Charles is — he has been in the right spots, been where we want him to be and like everybody else, he has had some tough plays as well. But, when I think of production, I may think of it a little differently than some other people.”
And how is that?
“Are you in the right place? Are you setting the edge when we want you to set the edge? Are you penetrating from a pass rush standpoint when we want you to penetrate? And I think from that standpoint, he has done a lot of good things. But he can always be better. At the end of the day, there have been a couple plays here and there — and it is not just Charles but it is across the board — that we could make that we didn’t, that I feel like we can make. The goal is to make those plays. I think he understands that.”
Remember when Gase would say sacks aren’t really that important? It drove me crazy because everyone with a brain understands sacks are a big deal.
Sacks collapse drives. Sacks lead to turnovers. And quarterbacks losing their nerve. Offensive coaches hate sacks because they change things, sometimes including the course of a season when that hit knocks the quarterback out of the lineup.
So when Flores, a defensive coach, seemingly diminishes the value of sacks by saying production for a defensive end is about being in the right place and setting the edge it similarly makes me feel strange.
Being in the right place? That’s the least anyone can ask a player to do. Show up and be where you’re assigned.
What kind of standard is that?
So I asked Flores if that isn’t basically asking Harris and anyone else to simply do the minimum?
“I kind of hear what you are saying and it somewhat makes sense,” Flores said, “but when you’ve got a 320-pound guy coming at you and we are asking you to set the edge and lock them out with your inside arm — yes, it is the minimum but it is a hard thing to do as well.”
So Flores doesn’t disagree that he’s basically asking Harris in this case to do the minimum, but that minimum assignment is kind of hard because the other team has a player trying to prevent that from happening and that player is really heavy. So it’s hard.
Remember when Gase said it was hard beating New England? What he was saying was true.
But that’s the job. Beat New England.
And for Harris the job is set the darn edge. But also get to the quarterback. Do it all consistently because you are a first-round draft pick.
But you want some hard truth? Harris is actually doing a worse job now, in Year 3, than he did his previous two seasons because he has gotten more of a chance to play than ever before. Consider:
Harris has zero sacks while playing a career high 76 percent of the defensive snaps. He has started as many games this season as he started the previous two seasons combined.
And yet fewer sacks.
In his rookie season, Harris played only 48 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and last year it was 32 percent. And, no, Harris wasn’t a sack machine back then. But he did collect three sacks during that time.
Look, getting to the quarterback is hard. But let’s not make it seem like it’s splitting the atom or performing surgery. I see sacks in other games and by other players quite regularly.
So doing far less than that — the minimum — doesn’t feel like a huge accomplishment to me.
“It is those small details that are the difference between winning and losing a lot of the time and taking care of those things, in my opinion, in my experience, when you take care of all of those little things, those minimum things as you call them, that is when big things happen,” Flores said.
“When you don’t take care of those minimum things, that is when the big plays or the dropped pass, or not in the right spot, the quarterback and receiver kind of being off, not in sync — so those details I think that some people call minimum or they take for granted, I think those are the things that we really have got to be good at those. The ordinary things that — I think those are the — If we can get that process done more consistently, done right, I think the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Wait. I don’t believe I said don’t do the small things. I don’t believe I said ignore the minimum. I actually expect everyone to do the minimum. But I would think the professional football team would want more than that.
I certainly would want to see more than that.