The San Diego Chargers had a miserable season in 2015. The team was in most of their games, but in the end they failed to get the job done. There were many factors in the teams play, but a lot of it had to do with the play of the offensive and defensive line.
We here at EVT have talked about bringing in a center for the team. Alex Mack would make a great addition to the team as would Stefen Wisniewski. The Chargers offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, and having a rock at center could very well be the answer on a productive season for the Bolts.
As far as upgrading the defensive line, there is one huge answer to the Chargers problems. Damon Harrison is arguably one of the best players in the league that you have never heard of. “Big Snacks” as he is known by his teammates has freakish athletic ability for a man who weighs 340 plus pounds. He constantly wrecks havoc on offensive lineman and is a run stuffing machine on the line.
Harrison often requires a double team effort to contain him and by doing that offensive lines put the pressure on themselves to contain the rest of the unit. If the Chargers sign Harrison, Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes would see a significant boost in their numbers and the outside linebackers would also see less double teams.
Harrison will not be cheap by any stretch of the imagination though. He will likely require Geno Atkins type money to sign. He turned down a three-year/$15 million dollar offer two seasons ago by the Jets and will cash in big for his patience. Atkins ended up signing a five-year deal for around $55 million dollars and that seems to be around what Harrison will eventually get if he hits the open market.
The Jets have some issues right now as Muhammad Wilkerson is also due for free agency. The defensive lineman has been franchised tagged and with that the Jets really do not have the room for him and Harrison. They chose to keep their former first round pick instead of Harrison who was an undrafted free agent. If the Jets can work out a last minute deal with Wilkerson there is a chance they can use their franchise tag on Harrison. However that does not seem likely at this point. The Jets have until March 9th to get a deal done because free agency starts on that day. If they can’t the Harrison will hit the open market.
Damon Harrison has a very interesting story to tell of how he got to where he is. A story that makes you like the man and respect all that he has gone through to be where he is in life. Harrison was a point guard in high school. Yes, I said point guard. His first love was basketball, but he always enjoyed playing football too. The problem was he wasn’t that good at football as a youth. He was cut twice from his middle school team and eventually became the teams water boy because he wanted to be around the sport. He couldn’t handle being teased by his friends, so he quit his job as water boy eventually.
Going into high school Harrison thought his football career was over and he concentrated on basketball. He was a 220 lb point guard, and a knee injury his sophomore year changes his life forever. The torn meniscus made Harrison rethink his choice about sports and his weight ballooned up from inactivity. He tried out for football and made the team his junior year. He played sparingly and only played seven total games in high school. He did not seem like much of a football prospect and was stocking shelves at Walmart in 2008 for $14 dollars.
Harrison was called in to play for the college football power house William and Mary and he jumped at the opportunity. The school is in Division 1-A and is not typically a football school. He arrived at the school weighing 250 lbs. By the time he ended his playing time there he was up to 360 lbs and was an absolute force on the line. Still, playing at such a small school left Harrison under the radar and nobody from the NFL came calling. He has such athleticism that at 360 lbs he could dunk a basketball doing a 360 degree spin. His footwork and athletic ability are off the charts and the Jets got a steal when the signed the undrafted free agent in 2012.
He spent his first season playing very sparingly only playing in five games. He did show a lot of potential in his limited time though. Enough that the Jets named him their starting nose tackle for the 2013 season. He hasn’t missed a game since starting 48 straight games for the Jets. He is durable and can absolutely shut down the running game for opposing teams.
In his three season starting Harrison has averaged 67 total tackles. That is a huge amount for a lineman. He only has one and a half sack for his career, but he is a run stuffer and his job is not to harass the QB. He instead requires multiple blockers and frees up his teammates to make the play constantly. Nose tackles are an unselfish breed of players and to have a quality one on your team makes everyone on the defense better.
Check out this clip of Harrison and how athletic he really is. He takes on center Josh LeRibeus immediately. Fights him off then sheds the block of guard Spencer Long with an impressive spin move and makes the tackle of Alfred Morris for no gain. There is no way to defend that for an offensive lineman. He has awesome finesse and ridiculous footwork for a man his size.
This clip shows the power that Harrison has as he holds the point and easily handles the Eagles double team. He does not make the tackle but without his effort his teammates would have never had the space to make the play. He has this rare combination of power and finesse that you just do not find from a big man.
Damon “Big Snacks” Harrison could be the missing key for the Chargers defense to finally be consistent. With him manning the middle of the line, there will be tons of space for Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o to make tackles. No longer could teams just run at will against the Chargers with Harrison on the team.
He ranked as the best run defender last year according to pro football focus. In his 54 total solo tackles last season, 49 of them were against the run. The Chargers would need to rotate Harrison to keep him fresh. He traditionally only plays on first and second down and in fact has only played in 48.9% of the Jets plays over the last three seasons. Very impressive numbers for a two down player.
He could anchor the line and provide something the Chargers have traditionally lacked since the days of Jamal Williams. A big man in the middle will make everyone better and you have to think Damon Harrison is just getting to the pinnacle of his career. Tom Telesco needs to seriously consider “Big Snacks”. He would be a great addition to the team.