There was a time last season when Charles Harris was lost and practically admitted as much to the team.
Coaches and personnel people approached him and asked why he was apparently taking a vastly different approach to his game -- which was not working, by the way -- and why he’d made the change. And according to those folks, Harris told them he’d decided to start emulating veteran teammate Robert Quinn because he liked how the veteran played and thought he’d get better results doing that.
Except, of course, he didn’t get better results. Because Charles Harris isn’t Robert Quinn.
One example of Harris making the odd switch was the young defensive end trying to copy the move Quinn often used -- bending at the waist to the point his torso was almost parallel to the ground so he can get under the block of offensive tackles and to the quarterback.
It’s a move almost impossible for any human being to copy. And it was impossible for Harris to copy.
But the bigger problem was Harris didn’t seem to know who he was.
“I just tried to keep working hard and tried to stay positive, for real,” Harris said of that time. “It’s all about how your react to it. Nothing else you can do.”
Well, maybe the former first round draft pick is finding himself now.
Photo Gallery: Dolphins practice | Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Even in a new system, while applying different techniques, and while working out of multiple spots and stances, Harris may have finally showed up as himself last week in the preseason game against Tampa Bay.
He collected four tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in that game playing into the third quarter. He was easily one of the better Miami defenders on the field.
He finally looked the part he was supposed to play since 2017 when he was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
“Shoot, it boosts confidence,” Harris admitted Monday. “For everybody it boosts confidence, not just myself, but my whole D-line. It’s that whole accountability factor. The guys know I’m going to be there for them. And they’re going to be there for me.”
That honestly hasn’t been the case the past couple of years. He hasn’t been there for the team, managing a modest three sacks in 27 games and being unable to crack the starting lineup on a team desperate for pass rush.
That has changed this year.
Harris has been starting for Miami in multiple packages. Against Tampa Bay he played in the 4-3. He played in the 3-4, and he played in an “under defense” that had five defenders deployed at the line of scrimmage.
Harris played the right side. And he played the left side.
He rushed from a four-point stance. And a two-point stance.
If you didn’t know better, it would be hard to know exactly who Harris was, where he was going to be, or how he was going to attack.
Now that is a much better way to confuse the defense than trying to emulate one of your teammates because you may no longer buy into your own game.
“He’s been working hard,” fellow defensive lineman Davon Godchaux said of Harris. “Me and him worked a lot this offseason, so I expect a lot out of him.”
Harris found himself this offseason in part when he worked with defensive line guru Craig Kuligowski, his old position coach at Missouri. Harris focused on having “violent hands” and new pass rushing techniques.
He says it was a great way to launch what he was about to learn from the new Dolphins defensive staff.
“I think it helped a lot,” Harris said. “But coming into camp, I think the coaches did a great job of helping everybody go back to ground zero. We started with the little things so no matter how much progress you think you made in the offseason, you get here and the first day of camp you’re doing the basic things.”
That new staff is running the old New England Patriots defense now. Obviously that will be different than the Wide-9 system that clearly did not fit Harris the past two seasons.
And Harris is ready to see what the new techniques and new defense do for him as well as his teammates.
“I’m very excited, very excited,” he said. “There’s a lot of maneuverability. There’s a lot of different packages, a lot of change ups, so that will free a lot of guys up. It makes for a lot of confusion. They won’t know what to expect.”
A player seemingly lost last year has apparently remade himself for this season. And no one knows what to expect.