Packers RB DuJuan Harris: Real Deal or Flavor of the Month?

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DuJuan Harris
Packers RB DuJuan Harris

Packers running back DuJuan Harris has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Here’s what Packers coach Mike McCarthy recently said about him:

“Oh, he’s going to play for us next season. That’s his responsibility if wants to be the starter….I wish we would have had DuJuan earlier. He was a young man that we were just getting ready to try to put in the game. Everybody’s like ‘Just put him in there.’”

Cheesehead TV co-founder and senior NFL video producer at Bleacher Report Aaron Nagler recently Tweeted this about Harris:

“Watching DuJuan Harris run the football is one of my favorite things.”

Tyler Dunne had a feature story on Harris at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

“The second-year pro from Troy finished as the Packers’ top back, rushing for 257 yards on 62 carries with four scores in six games. This off-season – as outside pressure mounts for Green Bay to land a bigger, durable, every-down back – Harris has hit the mute button.”

So, is Harris for real? Could a 5-foot-7 dude plucked from an auto dealership halfway through last season really be the Packers answer at running back?

Maybe.

Let’s look at why Harris might be the real deal, and why he might be just another flavor of the month.

Real Deal

  • Have you seen the guy run? Holy cow! Quick. Decisive. Explosive. Good vision. Strong. Moves forward. Packs a punch. Physical. You ask yourself why a guy like him was selling cars instead of ramming into NFL defenders.
  • His attitude. Go read that entire story from Dunne again. Harris sounds like a great guy who knows how the NFL operates and is ready to fight like hell for a starting job.
  • Who else is there? Sure, I suppose the Packers could draft a running back early, but do we really think Ted Thompson would spend a first-rounder on a running back? Never say never, but odds are the competition at running back will be between James Starks (yawn), Alex Green (yawn again), a lower-round pick (yawn some more) and Harris.

Flavor of the Month

  • We’ve seen this before. Packers fans are so desperate for a good running back that we latch onto whatever we can. Starks looked like the real deal for a while. That seems like ages ago now. Green showed momentary signs of life. Then he flamed out. If you want to go further back in history, we can talk about Vernand Morency, Samkon Gado and Darick Holmes. Harris might be just another in a long line of the “The Next Big Thing” for Packers running backs.
  • He’s small. McCarthy has expressed a desire to have a back that can handle all three downs. You don’t see many 5-foot-7 running backs get the bulk of carries and hold up over a full season.
  • Small sample size. Throw any fresh running back into the end of an NFL season and he’ll have some success running against worn-down and injured defenses. Good luck doing it for 16 games when the running back is also worn down and battling injuries.

My Thoughts

Harris deserves a shot. Yeah, he’s short, but who cares? The guy is built. He’s 214 pounds. I think he can hold up.

If Harris does wash out, it would probably be because of pass-blocking struggles, not his size.

The Packers have talked a lot about getting tougher. To me, Harris epitomizes toughness in how he runs and how he carries himself. He’s not a guy I’d want to get in front of after he makes a cut or turns a corner.

I’m not predicting greatness for Harris, but I am predicting that he’ll turn some heads. Don’t write this kid off just because he’s short.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • FireMMNow

    When will people realize that short does not mean small? Guys like Harris do not take a lot of big hits. I really liked this guy coming out of Troy, and he ran a lot better than I thought he would, really surprised he went undrafted. After watching Packer running backs like brandon jackson, ryan grant etc. i look for guys that can stick their outside foot in the ground and get up field quickly. a half a step in the NFL is the difference between a hole and a run for no gain. He is the real deal in my opinion. Hopefully MM and Campen take a long look at their running scheme and make a few changes. When they started using some power runs later in the year they had quite a bit of success.

    • Tarynfor12

      “Guys like Harris do not take a lot of big hits.”

      Based on that,TT needs to take a serious look at Robbie Rouse..5’5″ 190lbs…can’t see him,he’ll never get hit..even with our OL.

    • Stroh

      I like Harris, he’s a good runner and good all around RB, but I just don’t see him as being able to take the FT feature RB role and owning it. I wouldn’t be upset if he did, and proved me wrong but I just don’t see it and until I do, I’m not a believer.

    • Dobber

      I just don’t know how you can assess this guy based on 50 carries. There are a lot of backs out there who look awful good in a limited role.

  • Razer

    There is no downside to having Harris show up when he did or investing in him going forward. The Packers have not had a premier back since Ahman Green so he is just another option. I like him but he is likely to follow the same trajectory as Jackson, Starks, Green and whoever else we dig up.

    If we want to make a run game happen then we need to improve the O-line. Whether it is personnel or scheme, I don’t know. We will need to improve our run game play design and we will need to improve our play calling. So, Harris is a nice addition but the results will start with a coaching change of practice.

    • Savage57

      I think Razer’s central idea here is pretty strong. When you’ve been looking for answers at RB year after year, and no matter who you introduce to the equation as RB you get the same crappy results, you have to start looking at other variables such as OL makeup and capability, play design, execution, et al. And the fact that the HC and play caller would rather stab himself in the ear with a pencil than run the ball consistently doesn’t help either.

      The one thing that all Packer fans can agree on – what the hell is goin on out there?

      • Razer

        Thanks Savage for recognizing the reality of our run game. The first down formula for establishing the run by pounding out 3 yards behind an O-line that gets no surge cannot be considered a serious ground game. Even MM realizes this because he inevitably abandons the effort. Once teams get enough film on Harris, he will be another GB running back that gets marginal attention. We all desperately want to see the run attack force teams to play both aspects of the offense but it will take much more than DuJuan Harris to change this culture

        • Stroh

          If your longing for the days of Ahman Green and even distribution of run/pass it aint gonns happen under McCarthy. Most you can hope for is 38-43% runs. He’s a passing coach just like Holmgren was.

  • waldo

    I would be overjoyed if our running game was good enough to convert on 3rd and 1. I don’t care who does it, but for goodness sake please can we get that one yard? Anything besides that is just gravy.

  • Ron LC

    Way too soon to tell. He’s certainly worth a shot at the job. I reserve judgement until after two 1,000 yard seasons in a row.

    • cow42

      “two 1,000 yard seasons in a row”

      no chance in hell.

      • Oppy

        You’re sexy when your negative and grumpy.

        And you, my friend, are one sexy, sexy beast.

      • Adam Czech

        I agree w/ you, Cow. It’s going to be two 1,500-yard seasons in a row. Probably two 2,000-yard seasons in a row.

      • Stroh

        Watch out for that SF backup thats no better than Harris tho. That guy has revolutionized the NFL. All those SF guys have revolutionized the NFL isn’t that right cowpie?!

    • Dobber

      And what does 1000 yards mean? A little over 60 yards per game! Ooooh! Domination!

      All the Packers need is the THREAT to run the ball. It shouldn’t matter if it comes from a single player or a committee (which certainly sounds like more of an issue with scheme and blocking, to me). It’s the YPC number that should be telling: 3.9 for the Packers, 4.5 for the opposition.

      If you have guys who are essentially 3-down backs, all the better so you’re not telegraphing plays/tendencies.

  • FITZCORE1252

    I want to believe, it’s just gonna take more time. I’ve seen RB’s “flash” like this before, or shall I say, I’ve been fooled before. I’m sure as hell pulling for the kid though.

    GBP 4 LIFE

  • Mojo

    James Starks weighs around 218. Grant 222, Green 225, Benson 227. If Harris is around 214, I don’t see a big difference.

    You could make a case there’s less of a target range for him compared to his taller contemporaries. He has a lower center of gravity and can probably make cuts quicker. If he has the bulk, speed and running instincts (and I think he does), there’s no reason he shouldn’t succeed. Negatives could be – he’s a small target in the passing game, and maybe can get bowled over as a blocker. Else, probably more than any other position, not having height as an RB isn’t hinderance, but an asset. (consider tall RB Starks injury history).

    • Dobber

      And so many are making a case for Montee Ball in the draft…at 5’10” and 215. How is he any better/different in that regard?

      • Stroh

        Ball has a proven track record of being an every down RB that easy to translate to the pro’s. Harris doesn’t have anything close. That’s the difference.

      • Dobber

        The argument being that Ball ain’t a prototypical big back either. And at that size, coming out of a program like Wisconsin, he’s already got a lot of wear on his tires.

        Go look up Harris’s college stats. He came out of a pass-first program, but tallied 150+ and 200+ carries in his top seasons and caught 27 and 36 passes. He’s played a lot of football.

        You might argue that Troy is a big step to the NFL, but if that’s the case, why is he even in the conversation?

  • Dr. Ronald Inda

    Light running backs are never durable or can be trusted as featured backs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Payton

  • JiggA

    the new rule is going to screw over DuJuan. He is shorter than most defenders and runs hard, how is he NOT supposed to hit an occasional one with his helmet??

    • Chad Toporski

      Read the rule carefully…

      • Ron LC

        If you have to read a rule carefully, it’s going to be a damn disaster trying to implement it. Just another step in the evolution to “flag football.”

        • Dobber

          Amen. How do you legislate contact out of football?

          It’s like trying to legislate folding chairs out of pro wrestling…

    • Sven

      I think the new rule will favor Harris more due to his size. His compactness will naturally protect his body. Look at the taller backs like Peterson. I think it will be the large power-backs that will suffer more from this rule. Plus Harris seemed more agile than power.

  • Ryan

    And I thought the Brandon Jackson days were bad. This running back thing just gets worse.

  • Big T

    The man is a beast. He is the Clay Matthews of running backs. He will kick azz and take names if MM lets him. As soon as he started hitting a stride MM would bench him. I think MM and TT are afraid of success at times. (easily bruised egos)

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Please explain how being successful would bruise someone’s ego?

  • FireMMNow

    No one is sure of anything with DuJuan Harris, but just look at what he did. He had about 60 carries between the playoffs and regular season and I think it is pretty obvious that in that sample he performed much better than alex green (135 carries) or James Starks (72) carries.

    If nothing else DuJuan has speed to take it the distance in a hurry. As long as teams respect that speed they have to make him a part of their game plan. That is more than they can get out of green, starks or grant. I am not saying he is going to be an elite runner, but he has more talent than any RB the packers have had since ahman green.

    • Stroh

      Green was still not 100% recovered from his ACL. He should be this year so we’ll see what we have in both him and Harris this season. A combo of Green/Harris seems in order to me.

  • Dobber

    Sure, in a limited sample when no one was threatened by the running game, he was able to make plays. I won’t deny that. The question is: does 60 carries extrapolate linearly to 200+? There’s only one way to find out.

    I’d like to see him get his chance. What do the Packers have to lose?

  • bobalou13

    Agree completely with Stroh. Really hopeful that Alex Green is all the way back this year. He has a ton of ability. Harris is better suited, I would think, as a change of pace, third down type of back.

  • http://foxsports chadooo

    strengthen the oline and give him a chance

  • Bubbaloo

    The place to start is by firing James Campen, a dozen lousy running backs in a row, mostly due to no run blocking, is not a coincidence. Campen was a mediocre player and he’s now a mediocre coach! Fire hiz azz!