Dolphins DE Charles Harris is the ‘last man standing’ after an exodus of veteran defensive ends
Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Wednesday he “can’t say enough good things about” Charles Harris, which was pretty eye-opening because a wrist injury has prevented Harris from participating in key parts of the first eight sessions of offseason practices.
But what has impressed Flores, among other things, is Harris’ attitude and diligence in learning a new position — a role that Dolphins brass hopes will jump-start his career.
Harris, a defensive end in his first two NFL two seasons, is learning a hybrid end/linebacker position — an opportunity Harris believes will bring out the best in him.
“I definitely do,” Harris said when asked if this new position will maximize his skills. “I definitely do in all areas.”
That’s why learning his responsibilities, even while dealing with a wrist injury, has been an enjoyable process. He has been fully dressed for practice but has participated only in individual drills and classroom work.
“It has been cool,” he said. “Any time as a player you can expand your football IQ and learn different things, it’s always exciting. It makes you appreciate the game a lot more.”
Flores, even without initially being asked about Harris on Wednesday, offered an unsolicited testimonial, saying Harris “is doing a good job in the classroom and on the field. He’s smart, hard-working, has a lot of ability. We’re pleased where he’s at. He’s the kind of guy I want in the building.”
Harris has only three sacks in 27 NFL games, and the Dolphins believe he can be more effective as a pass rusher from a stand-up position at times, as opposed to always having his hand in the ground as a defensive end.
Harris explained the advantage of standing up, in a linebacker role, this way:
“It’s different because whenever an [offensive] tackle sees someone standing up, they’re thinking he can drop [or] he can rush. You can give them two [different possibilities] versus one with your hand down where you know he’s coming.”
On Wednesday, Harris and teammates Tank Carradine, Nate Orchard and Adolphus Washington stayed on the field for an additional 20 minutes working on pass rush drills long after teammates had gone to the locker room.
“You never want to be in a situation where you don’t do the little thing right to get that sack,” Harris said.
He said he has studied tapes of New England’s defense — and other NFL defenses — but hasn’t been told to specifically study the hybrid end/linebacker role that Kyle Van Noy plays for the Patriots — or the role that Trey Flowers played before signing with Detroit (which included a lot of end and some linebacker).
“Coaches don’t want us to get into a mind frame of boxing ourselves in,” Harris said. “[Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham] came in and ridiculed us [about] having a boxed in mind-set of, ‘I play like this.’ He’s like, ‘No, be a football player.’ He broke the shackles on us.”
The big issue now is when Harris will receive full medical clearance to participate in team drills. Harris said he’s not sure when that will happen, and Harris and Flores declined to speculate if he would be fully healthy by the start of training camp in late July.
Asked how close he is to full strength, he said: “I’m not really sure. I haven’t really tested it. Just doing workouts every day and then getting evaluated whenever I go to the doctor. Waiting for her to give me the green light.”
Undrafted Colorado State rookie receiver Preston Williams continues to impress; he caught touchdown passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen in red zone drills on Wednesday.
“Really talented,” Rosen said. “He’s got that big body NFL receivers are based off of, that sort of one on one position. Great hands. Really looking forward to developing with him.”
▪ Flores said the Dolphins signed former Bills starting defensive tackle Washington because “we saw a young man that has some versatility, some pass rush ability. Does some good things in the run game and has had a little bit of production in the league and felt he would be a good addition to the team. Decent strength. Think there are good things to develop.”
Washington said he has some experience playing end in a 3-4 defense when he was with Rex Ryan in Buffalo.
▪ Flores said whether cornerback Xavien Howard shadows the opponent’s top receiver “will be game plan based. If we want to put him on a specific matchup, we can do that.”
▪ Flores, on why he likes having a fullback: “It adds a competitiveness, grit, toughness to the team. We want to run the football. A lead blocker to clear the way helps that. I value that position. I like him on my team.” Seventh-rounder Chandler Cox has first crack at the job.
▪ Flores said safety Reshad Jones will need to win back his starting job when he returns. Though Jones has been away from the team during voluntary OTA sessions, the Dolphins have said they expect him to return for mandatory minicamp next week. “No sacred cows in this game,” Flores said.
▪ Linebacker Raekwon McMillan and tight end Dwayne Allen returned to practice from minor injuries, while receiver Albert Wilson, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and linebacker Chase Allen remained sidelined with 2018 injuries.