Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris made his debut with the team in the 27-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night. Many fans were wondering who exactly was No. 26 and why was he starting over Alex Green and Ryan Grant.
Harris was signed to the Packers’ practice squad on Oct. 24 after the uncertain future of starter Cedric Benson became a cause for concern within the organization when he suffered a season-ending injury. On Dec. 1, Harris was signed to Green Bay’s active roster and on Dec. 9, he scored his first career touchdown, which was accompanied by his first Lambeau Leap. If that was not enough of a surprise, Harris also ran for 31 yards on seven carries in which he averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
The 24-year-old may be new to Packers’ fans but he is certainly not new to the game of football. Harris spent his collegiate years at Troy University where he led the team in carries his sophomore and junior seasons. He rushed for 2,635 yards on 540 career attempts and ran for 27 touchdowns. He also hauled in 79 receptions for 553 yards and five receiving touchdowns over a four-year span.
Harris was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2011 NFL Draft as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in five games with the Jaguars in which he rushed the ball nine times for 42 yards. Unfortunately, he was released by the team on August 25, 2012. Two days later the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to try him out but concluded that they did not need him. It was nearly a month later when the Packers signed him.
Harris is not a typical every-down back, but would be better used on second or third downs as a way for a team to change the pace of their running style. Clearly, this is what Green Bay did against Detroit as they were constantly switching out the trio of backs and even implemented John Kuhn into the rotation for one carry.
The small size and speed of Harris may remind Packers’ fans of Brandon Jackson, who was a member of the 2010 Super Bowl team. Both players use their abilities to the fullest in screen plays, as well as, quick runs that typically gain a decent amount of yards. This is possible because Harris can stay low to the ground and hide behind the offensive lineman similar to what Maurice Jones-Drew does in Jacksonville.
Like Jones-Drew, Harris makes tacklers pay as he delivers a hard blow before being taken to the ground. He is also able to carry tacklers with him for a few more yards as he proved in the win against the Lions. This is something Green Bay looks for in a running back because once the weather gets colder it will be more difficult for defenses to secure tackles. The physical running style will also tire out defenses at which point quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be able to take over the game with his arm or possibly with his feet when defenders are in man coverage.
Green still got the most carries against Detroit and Grant is expected to see more action going forward, but Harris is still a great change-of-pace for the team, which means Kuhn’s role will diminish even more. Not to mention, the fact Harris falls forward to gain extra yardage like Grant and James Starks means he will get more touches in the fourth quarter as long as he can demonstrate good ball security.
This is great news for a team that is once again heating up at the right time of the season. Just like in 2010, the Packers appear to have found a solid running game that will bring balance to an already terrific offense that is loaded with weapons.
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook.