Har­ri­son plays key role in Giants’ suc­cess

De­fen­sive tackle qui­etly con­trib­utes to unit that has sti­fled foes’ ground game

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Cana­van AP Sports Writer

There are a lot of rea­sons for the New York Giants’ suc­cess on de­fense this sea­son, and then there is Da­mon Har­ri­son.

Af­fec­tion­ately called ‘Snacks’ by his team­mates, Har­ri­son isn’t what one would con­sider a glam­our player on co­or­di­na­tor Steve Spag­n­uolo’s unit.

Other play­ers are more no­tice­able. Sec­ond-year safety Lan­don Collins is hav­ing a ca­reer year with 87 tack­les and five in­ter­cep­tions.

Ja­son Pierre-Paul is play­ing like the old ‘JPP’ with seven sacks, in­clud­ing 5 ½ in the past two games.

Fel­low de­fen­sive end Olivier Ver­non has sacks in four straight and cor­ner­backs Janoris Jenk­ins and Dom­inque Rodgers-Cro­mar­tie are help­ing to limit op­pos­ing big-play re­ceivers.

Har­ri­son’s work is more covert. With his dread­locks reach­ing un­der­neath his hel­met, the 6-foot-3, 343-pound Har­ri­son is the force in the mid­dle of a de­fense that has not al­lowed a player to rush for 100 yards this sea­son.

Only three teams have gained 100 yards in 11 games.

“It seems like every week there is some­thing he does that has me say­ing (Wow), how in the heck did you do that,” linebacker Devon Ken­nard said of Har­ri­son.

“It’s ridicu­lous. It might get over­passed by some of the other plays we are mak­ing all over the field, but I don’t know if I have seen a de­fen­sive tackle dom­i­nate, the way he dom­i­nates.”

Ken­nard said there was a play against Cleveland this past week­end when the Giants won their sixth straight game on which Har­ri­son split a dou­ble

team and made the tackle.

Har­ri­son’s play has helped the Giants (8-3) jump from the NFL’s las­tranked de­fense in 2015 to No. 16 head­ing into Sun­day’s game at Pitts­burgh against the Steel­ers (6-5).

Giants guard Justin Pugh laughed when asked about play­ing against Har­ri­son, who made the NFL as a free agent with the Jets.

“Just look at him,” Pugh said. “He’s an un­mov­able per­son. He’s a good player. He plays low and he has a chip on his shoul­der.”

That chip helped Har­ri­son get a five-year, $46.2 mil­lion deal from the Giants in the off­sea­son.

Spag­n­uolo said he didn’t know what to expect from Har­ri­son other than what he saw on video­tape,

a force in the mid­dle of the de­fen­sive line who wasn’t sat­is­fied sim­ply be­ing a run stop­per.

Spag­n­uolo got that and more, even a cou­ple of hits on the run­ning backs com­ing through the line on pass plays.

“He has been such a key com­po­nent to the way this thing has kind of gelled to­gether and I am not talk­ing about when he is out on the field, as much as when he is off the field, when he is on the side­line, when he is in the locker room,” Spag­n­uolo said.

“I watch him all the time. He has been the glue. He has been the guy that can get the guys to re­fo­cus. You need some­body in the group that will do that and he has been that guy.”

Har­ri­son said he spoke with Spag­n­uolo after sign­ing and the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor just told him to be him­self.

He has done that play­ing what is a thank­less po­si­tion.

More of­ten than not, he is get­ting dou­ble-teamed, although play­ing in a 4-3 for­ma­tion with the Giants has helped him fo­cus on one gap.

He had to han­dle two gaps play­ing a 3-4 scheme with the Jets.

“I’m get­ting old,” Har­ri­son said. “I used to like the dou­ble teams, but now I’m just try­ing to run away from them. Pass them on to (Johnathan) Hank­ins. A young guy.

“If that’ll help the team and make the team bet­ter, cause the lineback­ers to make more plays, then I’m all for it. I try to fight through the dou­ble team and still make the play. I’m not just sit­ting on the dou­ble team and hold­ing it. I want to make plays. Dou­ble team and single team, I still think I have a chance to make a play.”

The sta­tis­tics bear that

out.

Har­ri­son is third on the team with 63 tack­les. He also had 1½ sacks, four tack­les for losses, three quar­ter­back hits, a pass de­fended and a forced fum­ble.

NOTES

Safety Nat Berhe (con­cus­sion), LB Mark Her­zlich (con­cus­sion) and DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) did not prac­tice for the sec­ond straight day. Pugh (knee) and fel­low OL Mar­shall Ne­w­house (knee) and Brett Jones (calf) were limited. Re­turner Dwayne Har­ris (wrist) prac­ticed fully . ... Collins was hon­ored as the NFC de­fen­sive player of the month. The NFL said that Collins is the first safety with 30plus tack­les, three-plus in­ter­cep­tions, and more than one sack in a cal­en­dar month since Philadel­phia’s Brian Dawkins in 2006.

SETH WENIG — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Giants’ Da­mon Har­ri­son stretches dur­ing prac­tice at the team’s train­ing camp in East Ruther­ford, N.J., in Au­gust.

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