David Harris

Can the Patriots again have the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense?


Can the Patriots again have the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense?

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.

The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "Hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.


Today's topic: Was that No. 1 scoring defense a year ago repeatable?
Scout 1: Why the hell wouldn’t it be? From a talent perspective, they’re better. {Stephon] Gilmore is an upgrade over Logan Ryan. [Trey] Flowers this year, with another year of experience, is better than Flowers from last year. I’m a big believer in their three safeties [Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon]. With a secondary like that, even if it takes them time to find a consistent pass rusher, they’ll still be effective. I like the addition of David Harris too. He’s not the player he once was but to me, that’s a major league upgrade over the mismatch of bodies they used alongside [Dont'a] Hightower once Jamie Collins got sent away.
Scout 2:
Look, you can’t dismiss the numbers from last year. You just can’t. But I never thought they were ALL that. You have the best offense in the league. You have teams consistently chasing points. And you have an intelligent coaching staff that says, "Okay, take all the underneath stuff you want. Eventually, you’ll have to try and make a scoring play and that’s where our playmakers take over." The fact that group showed discipline is a feather in their cap, but I think they’ll miss Logan Ryan more than most do, and I think wear and tear are showing on Chung and a couple of other guys that will test their depth. They’ll be Top 10, maybe even Top 5 -- and that’ll be more than good enough -- but I don’t see a repeat. 
Scout 3: I’m not a fan of the Gilmore signing. I think his effort was inconsistent in Buffalo and his performance was too. Do you think [Bill] Belichick and [Matt] Patricia will tolerate that? Maybe they have no choice because of the contract and the need to make it look right, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t some hiccups there. Then you wonder how that plays with the guy across from him [Malcolm Butler]. He deserves to get paid. It didn’t impact Logan Ryan. He kept showing up, no matter how he was deployed. They aren’t a great pass rushing team to begin with and that was with [Rob] Ninkovich. I think to expect some of those journeyman types - [Kyle] Van Noy, [Shea] McClellin - to aid the rush is probably wishful thinking. Oh sure, they’ll scheme up some pressures and whatnot, and that defense will still be in the upper half of the league but I don’t see similar numbers. I just don’t.
Front office executive: I just looked at their schedule. This isn’t last year just based on that and that alone. [Drew] Brees. [Cam] Newton. [Jameis] Winston. [Matt] Ryan. [Philip] Rivers. [David] Carr. Some of the best receivers in football: Michael Thomas, [DeAndre] Hopkins, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, Julio Jones, [Demaryius] Thomas and [Emmanuel] Sanders in Denver, [Amari] Cooper in Oakland. That’s a pretty good reason to go out and make the Gilmore signing. I know they pride themselves on not allowing the big plays but with that group, eliminating them entirely will be difficult. And if you make that your mission, then there are catch and run plays to be had underneath. That will put pressure on what I would consider an underwhelming group at DE/OLB. Never mind if something happens to Hightower. I trust Bill and the defensive coaches to make the necessary adjustments and even go out and do something before the trade deadline to address a shortcoming.

Harris happy to be with Pats, but feels 'disrespected' by Jets' late release


Harris happy to be with Pats, but feels 'disrespected' by Jets' late release

David Harris is certainly happy to be a Patriot. But that doesn't mean he's forgotten -- or forgiven -- the way his Jets career ended.

Pro Football Talk reports Harris, in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, felt "disrespected" being released so late after the new league year had begin,

"They kind of blindsided me with the whole thing, being so late in the offseason, a week before minicamp," he said. "It came out of left field. It was more about the disrespect of the whole situation than anything else. But the Jets made their decision. I had to sit back and be patient and evaluate some things.

"A couple teams were inquiring about me, but then once the Patriots came into the picture, it was pretty much a done deal as soon as I found out they were interested in me."

And being in Foxboro has been everything Harris thought it would be.

"It feels good. I couldn't expect anything more," he said. "Everybody just works hard every day, with that winning attitude, and the culture is like no other than I've been a part of. I'm glad to be here, this late in my career and be around a bunch of great individuals. They are better people off the field."

David Harris: Once the Patriots showed interest, his decision was made


David Harris: Once the Patriots showed interest, his decision was made

FOXBORO -- David Harris has been used to doing things one way for a decade as a member of the New York Jets. But when he walked onto the field for his first day of training camp practice in New England, thus began a foray into a whole new world for the 33-year-old linebacker. 

"I don't think I've ever seen this many fans for a training camp practice," Harris said with a smile on Thursday. 

The differences between life as a Jet and life as a Patriot don't end there, of course. You won't catch Harris putting down his former club -- he says he harbors no resentment toward the Jets for how their split came about during the offseason -- but he readily acknowledges the benefits of being in Foxboro. 

It's all about football, he explained. And that's a good thing, because he doesn't have any time for much else right now after arriving to the club following spring workouts. 

He's cramming.

"I told some guys I feel like a transfer student, coming in late and pretty much hit the ground running," he said. "I have to spend more time in the playbook at night and in the morning and with the coachces to get me up to speed. That's expected for a new guy, and I'm no different."

Harris has been eager to learn how the Patriots do things well before he arrived in town. After he was released, he said he heard from multiple teams, but there was one call he received that ended the decision-making process. 

"There were a couple inquiries," he said, "but once the Pats came, I already knew what time it was."

Now comes the work, which isn't limited to learning the Xs and Os of the Patriots scheme. 

"The hardest thing is to pick up the playbook and learning teammates names and putting names to faces," he said. "I played against them for 10 years . . . but the guy behind the facemask, that's the main thing I'm trying to focus on right now."

Harris made up a group of off-the-ball linebackers during Thursday's session that included Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. Dont'a Hightower remains on the physically unable to perform list for now, but how Harris might impact Hightower's game will be one storyline to watch once they're able to share the field.