On December 1st, the Packers signed running back DuJuan Harris to the active roster from their practice squad. Since that time, Harris has run the ball 20 times at a 4.4 yd per carry average and has two touchdowns. More importantly, he has shown something we haven’t seen in a Green Bay running back since Ahman Green – patience, vision and the ability to cut and make tacklers miss, while still hitting the hole hard.
First, a brief Bio:
In High School in Florida, Harris ran for 3,000-plus yards and 45 touchdowns, including a single-game record of 363 and five TDs. At the time, he weighed about 160lbs, which combined with his lack of height meant he didn’t get a lot of offers to play college ball.
Harris went to Division 1-A Troy, where he had 540 carries for 2,635 yards and 27 TDs and 79 receptions for 553 yards and five TDs.
Harris was signed as an undrafted free agent by Jacksonville and spent 11 games on the practice squad and 5 games on the active roster. He was cut in training camp in 2012, signed by the Steelers for their last preseason game and then cut again. The Packers signed him to their practice squad on Oct 24th and then to their active roster on Dec. 1st.
In his limited playing time, DuJuan Harris has drawn high praise from some teammates and coaches:
Mike McCarthy: He’s a change-of-pace player for us because of his physical skill set. He presents a different challenge to defenders. He’s small at impact and he’s as quick as he is fast. DuJuan has the ability to put his foot down and lower his shoulder, and he also has the ability to make you miss. He’s unique and we haven’t had a runner with that skill set in my time here.
Mike McCarthy: “He’s a young man that has a lot of ability. He’s 5-foot-7, but other than that we like everything about him. He has very good hands. He has burst. He’s quick. So, he’s done a nice job since he’s been here.”
James Jones: “He’s got a bright future. I’ve never seen anybody as quick as him in and out of his cuts. It’s similar to Barry Sanders. Seriously. “It’s similar to Barry! I know he came from nowhere, but watching him in practice, and the way he moves, all that stuff, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt: “I watched him on the first day of practice, his foot speed and quickness and ability to jump cut and get in and out of cuts and stop on a dime was immediate. This guy’s got a little something to him, he’s got a little wiggle and some burst.”
Aaron Rodgers: “He just has unique agility I think. He’s able to make those jump cuts which I can only dream about. It’s pretty impressive to watch him in practice.”
Aaron Rodgers: “DuJuan Harris, you know, he could be special down the road,”
Troy running backs coach Jeff Beckles: “He makes one cut and he goes. He runs the ball powerful — shoulder down and runs hard. He runs violently.” “He’s fast, obviously, and he’s strong. He’s going to bring it. He’s not going to let up.”
Jersey Al Bracco: OK, so nobody really quoted me, but I do want to throw my two cents in. While everyone has commented on his cutting ability, there is something else that stands out to me: patience and vision. on several occasions, I’ve seen harris watching the play develop, slow down to let the block develop, then cut into the resulting hole. No running up the ass of his blockers, no panic, just a calm assessment of the play in front of him and then a good decision on where to run. Some examples from the Titans’ game:
In the clip above, Harris sees the defensive end being taken to the ground, so no worries there. His eyes are on the second line of defenders the whole time. As he sees his blockers pushing the Titans defenders towards the sidelines, he takes a hard step right to lead them in that direction , then immediately cuts behind his blockers and hits the hole with aggression.
In the clip below, Harris takes the hand off and surveys the scene. Sitton and EDS execute a fine seal block on the defensive tackle. Barclay and Finley are trying to kick out on the defensive end. He drifts towards the outside, which draws the linebacker in that direction then make a hard cut in the open seam leading right to the end zone. Once Harris hits the seam, he accelerates, making a would-be Titans tackler misjudge his approach and miss.
Now, this is only 2 plays, and Harris is still an unknown quantity to the rest of the league, which certainly has helped him in this short stint in the NFL. But there is definite upside that can be seen in Harris.
I, for one, can’t wait to see if he continues to develop.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.