Posts Tagged ‘Damon Harrison’

Quinton Coples finishing the season on a high note

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Just before heading into the cafeteria after practice, Quinton Coples jokingly raises his hand in the air, up and out of the reach of a Jets public relations staff worker, looking for a high five.

The 6 foot 6 inch, 290-pound linebacker lets out a deep laugh as he watches her she jump and struggle to meet his skyward arm before mercifully lowering his hand to meet hers. Moments earlier, Coples admitted that, much like his wingspan, he has a “big personality.” Someone who gets joy out of making people laugh, whether they are his teammates, family members, sick kids, or team staffers.

The only problem being, up until these last few weeks, Coples’ big-time personality hadn’t been matched with big-time production. That, along with the emergence of his teammates along the defensive line, left Coples on the outside of the white-hot spotlight.

An injury and a position change hampered Quinton Coples early on, but the second year man is putting together a strong finish.

A place his personality would suggest, isn’t where he’d like to be.

But any criticism of Coples’ play this season must be scrutinized through the correct lens, and if he deserved any flack for how he preformed during the first eight games, he deserves all the more credit for how he is finishing.

After completing his rookie season with a team-high five and half sacks, Coples was asked to move from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, no small transition for a man of his size. On top of that, Coples fractured his ankle during the second preseason game, costing him two preseason and two regular season games along with invaluable learning time.

To expect him to become Aldon Smith overnight was unrealistic; to have him do so while overcoming an injury is just, well, ridiculous.

Yet, just as the calls for Coples benching were reaching a fever pitch, the second year man out of North Carolina responded with what Mohammed Wilkerson called a “break-out” game against the New Orleans Saints, which included a tackle for a loss on 4th and 19 to end the game.

And he’s been improving ever since. In just thirteen games, Coples is seventh in the league at the linebacker position with 17 quarterback hits, including nine tackles for loss, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. He has three and a half sacks in his last four games and his confidence is burgeoning.

“I think the game plan is getting a little shorter, everything is starting to work out in my favor in more situations,” he said. “Everything is going well, I’m definitely a lot more confident.”

When the Jets took Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick in 2013, in launched Coples into a world of uncertainty. It seemed curious that the Jets would take Richardson, with Coples, a first round pick who played the same position, already in toe. However, Coples’ move to linebacker now rounds out a young defensive front with loads of potential.

“These young guys, I think as it gets going, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be one of the top groups in the league,” said head coach Rex Ryan about his defensive front which now includes back-to-back-to-back first round picks.

Coples attributes much of his development to Wilkerson, his former prep school teammate, who took him under his wing after being drafted. Now, even after his move to linebacker, Coples still considers himself part of the “front four,” which includes Wilkerson, Richardson, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

“We’re definitely close knit,” he said. “We talk about anything and everything. It’s great.”

“I think that’s a young group that has the potential to be around for a long time,” said Ryan.

So, after undergoing some early growing pains, Coples, in two less games and with one more left to play, sits just one sack removed from his rookie total. And regardless of whether he gets it, the big guy, with the big personality should remain a big-time piece in the Jets rebuilding effort.

Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison feasting on competition

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – In a defensive front that includes three former first round picks, Damon Harrison could easily have become an afterthought.

Instead, the undrafted defensive tackle out of William Penn University is the talk of a revamped Jets defense.

“He’s playing lights-out football for us,” said veteran linebacker David Harris. “He’s a huge part of this defense.”

At 350 pounds, Damon “Big Snacks” Harrison, as he’s affectionately been nicknamed, is definitely a huge part of the Jets defense in more ways than one.

Playing only a few plays in five games a year ago, Harrison took a big step forward in the offseason, training with friend and teammate Kendrick Ellis.

Ellis, a third round pick in 2011, was the projected starter at nose tackle heading into the season, impressing head coach Rex Ryan during training camp. Snacks stepped in as the starter only after Ellis injured his back and was sidelined indefinitely.

Wally Pipping his friend, so to speak.

“Sometimes adversity to somebody gives opportunity to others,” said Ryan on Wednesday. “Obviously, Snacks has taken advantage of it and is doing a tremendous job.”

Harrison hasn’t just been an adequate fill in, either. Pro Football Focus rates him as a top-5 defensive tackle, naming him as the top interior defensive lineman in all of football for Week 3.

“He’s probably one of the best nose tackles in the league, in my opinion,” said fellow undrafted defensive lineman Leger Douzable. “You can’t really put one person on him and block him, it’s not going to happen. He’s made a big impact, especially in the run.”

An effective run stuffer, even a fantastic one, is not the most high profile gig on a football team, as casual fans tend to key in on flashier defensive plays like sacks and interceptions.

But Harrison’s presence in the trenches has paved the way for a revival on the defensive front, turning around the 26th best unit against the run a year ago, into a run stuffing, playmaking machine.

And while Ellis isn’t the starter anymore, his slow return to the lineup gives the Jets quality depth and scary potential.

“I give a lot of credit to that defensive line, especially Kendrick Ellis and Damon Harrison,” said Harris, who had perhaps the best game of his seven-year career against the Bills, thanks in part to the effort of the guys up front. “They’re keeping guys off of me and taking up double teams so it allows me to run free to the ball. I give all the credit to the d-line.”

After three weeks, Football Outsiders ranked the Jets defensive line second best in the league against the run based on adjusted line yards, a massive jump from a year ago when they were ranked 19th.

Harrison’s story is reminiscent of ex-Jet, and fan favorite, Sione Pouha, a big nose tackle who stepped into the spotlight after Kris Jenkins went down with an ACL injury.

“I tried to emulate everything that he did,” said Harrison of Pouha. The two played together a year ago and still keep in touch, according to Harrison.

But most of all, it’s been an increase in experience and confidence that has keyed Snacks’ breakout.

“I know exactly what I’m supposed to do,” said Harrison. “Last year I was having problems with that … the coaches didn’t have as much confidence in me because I wasn’t confident in myself. But now, this year, I know what I’m doing and I’m a whole lot more confident.”

And, boy, does it show.