Heading into the 2013 campaign, it was a general assumption that Kenrick Ellis would be the New York Jets’ starting nose tackle. With the regular season right around the corner, that might not be the case after all.
Following an outstanding showing in the Jets’ third preseason bout, second-year defensive tackle Damon Harrison is in a position to steal the starting spot in the middle of the Jets’ 3-4 front.
Against the New York Giants, Harrison racked up seven total tackles from the nose tackle spot – a rare feat for the position – for a 2.4 overall rating based on Pro Football Focus’ system. He finished the game with a 2.3 run defense rating, aided by the fact that six of his tackles were categorized as stops (a tackle made which constitutes an offensive failure).
Prior to that breakout performance, Harrison was relatively quiet. He played 50 snaps in the Jets’ first two preseason games, but made only two tackles while earning a 0.2 rating.
Undrafted out of William Penn last season, Harrison spent his 2012 rookie campaign with the Jets but rarely saw the field. In five appearances, he played only 22 snaps and made one tackle while serving as Gang Green’s third-string nose tackle.
Harrison is a mountain of a man, measuring in at 6’4’’, 350 pounds, but offers surprising athleticism for his size. If he does end up starting over Ellis – who has missed most of the preseason with a back injury – Harrison will team up with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson to form one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL.
Considering that Ellis is still battling back issues, there’s a good chance Harrison gets the call when Week 1 rolls around. He proved against the Giants that he can make an impact from the nose tackle spot, and should get the opportunity to carry his momentum over to the regular season.
Will Rex Ryan finally make a good call and start Harrison? We’ll find out soon enough…