Posts Tagged ‘Leger Douzable’

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.

Great expectations: Jets are silencing doubters

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets were a bad football team a year ago.

Like inventing a new word for bad, bad.

They were 28th in the league in offense, 30th in passing and their usually dominant defense sprung leaks, ranking 26th against the run.

Football Outsiders ranked the Jets 27th in total DVOA and they missed the playoffs for the second straight time in the Rex Ryan era.

But that was last season, and like a decaying zombie corpse that just won’t die (no matter how many times you beat it over the head with a shovel), the Jets are finding out that the stench of the buttfumble will be hard to outrun.

“A lot has been said about this football team,” Ryan said before the season started. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”

Rex Ryan is quietly proving why the Jets are far from the worst team in the league.

And there still are. But after a surprising 2-1 start, it’s time to entertain the possibility that the Jets are, well, a decent football team.

On Thursday, Ryan was confronted with that possibility when asked why he hasn’t chosen to revel in the team’s recent success.

“We’ll see,” he said with a smirk and a nod of his head, the old defiant Rex bubbling up to the surface. “There’s a long season ahead. I think I know what it’s going to look like but we’ll see.”

Yes, it’s a small sample size and, yes, one of those wins came on a last minute penalty and the other in spite of a team-record 20 penalties, but the Jets look vastly improved in several key areas, most notably on the defensive line and at quarterback.

A season ago, nose tackle Sione Pouha struggled with a back injury and the run defense suffered along with him – not so this season. In three games, the Jets defensive line is second best in all of football according to Football Outsiders, allowing an average of 79 rushing yards per game, which includes a 59-yard run by Bills running back Fred Jackson on a missed tackle.

Otherwise, the Jets have been dominate against the run, with undrafted nose tackle Damon Harrison being an impressive surprise amongst first round talent in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson.

Despite his one solo tackle against the Bills, “Snacks” was moving blockers all over the place, grading out as one of the top defensive tackles in the league by Pro Football Focus.

Then there’s Eugene Smith, who despite seven rookie-type turnovers, has done just enough to get the Jets offense off the ground.

Last season, Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback in the league. And not like the hyperbolic, talk radio, Skip Bayless kind of  “worst.” Literally, he was the worst quarterback in the league, ranking 36th in total QBR behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel.

Think about that. Worse than Brandon Weeden.

Sure, Geno has benefited from the return of Santonio Holmes, an improved offensive line and Marty Mornhinweg’s system, but his QBR through three games is almost double that of Sanchez’s and is currently better than Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford.

It’s clear now, Smith is a big upgrade over Sanchez. He has the ability to extend plays and take shots downfield. The 331 pass yards he hurled against the Bills didn’t seem like a fluke and if he continues to improve the offense could be miles better than a year ago – let’s face it, it already is.

The Jets know what’s been said about them, from circus-talk to 32nd in the power rankings and dreams of Jadeveon Clowney.

“We knew that people weren’t going to give us much of a chance,” said Leger Douzable, another surprising member of that improved defensive front. “We want for people to continue to not give us a chance because we love proving people wrong.”

Well, the Jets might not be sneaking up on people for much longer. Football Outsiders has their current mean win total at 8.7 after 50,000 simulations, meaning the Jets are shockingly projected to be in the 8-9 win range – within playoff striking distance.

Currently, Football Outsiders has the Jets playoff probability at 35 percent (which is up 14.7 percent from last week) and while that may not be realistic, it’s clear now, and for the foreseeable future, that the Jets are no longer a laughing stock.

“People are starting to talk about us,” said Douzable. “But we don’t want to listen to that we just want to get better.”