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No one will be calling the Dolphins’ Charles Harris a ‘bust’ after this season

The former first-round pick has the perfect opportunity — and the potential — to put it all together in his third season.

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Heading into his third season, Charles Harris hasn’t really come close to justifying his first-round selection back in 2017. I do believe that is about to change in a big way this season, however. With Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn no longer on Miami’s roster, Harris will almost certainly have every opportunity to win a starting position — and with it, the chance to jumpstart his career.

The fact that there is a new coaching staff in place probably won’t hurt, either. The Dolphins are moving to more of a 3-4 hybrid defense under new head coach Brian Flores. He comes over from the Patriots, where he was the defensive playcaller last season.

It remains to be seen just how different Harris’ role will be in that new system, but on film I saw a guy with the potential to be pretty versatile up front, so I don’t think he will have any problem fitting into the scheme. With a new staff, he should have a chance to make a better first impression, too.

When I watched his film it’s not like Harris has played particularly poorly in his first two seasons.

Yes, he only has three career sacks so far, but what I saw was a guy who won his fair share of one-on-one pass-rush matchups. He just didn’t always get to the quarterback. He also missed a few sacks where I felt like he was in position to make the play.

But that, to me, is evidence that the potential to make those plays is there; Harris just has to go ahead and seal the deal a little more often.

What makes me comfortable in believing that Harris will improve this season is that the guy has a motor that just won’t quit! While he may not have set the world on fire yet in the NFL, it doesn’t appear to be from a lack of trying. That dude busts his ass trying to get to the ball pretty much every play that he is on the field.

And let me tell you something as a guy who watches all of the games every week: not every player does that.

That kind of effort is generally rewarded eventually. Harris’ hustle consistently puts him in position to make more plays, whether that is an extra tackle he makes because he ran down the field after the ball was thrown, or if it’s a sack or pressure he gets because he just kept pursuing that quarterback who was trying to scramble. Once you start making those “extra” plays here and there, they start to add up.

If Harris wins the starting position and stays healthy, this should be, by far, the most playing time he has ever seen in the pros.

It wasn’t just his hustle that impressed me on film, however.

Harris isn’t too shabby as a pass rusher, either, sack numbers be damned.

He still has plenty of room to grow, and he needs to continue to sharpen up his technique. But Harris is already very active with his hands and he does a pretty good job of continually working to keep the blocker’s hands off of him.

I really like Harris’ cross-chop move, to be honest, and I believe he will only continue to get better at winning with it this year.

On the subject of sacks, one thing that’s important to keep in mind when it comes to judging Harris this season: The Patriots have only had one (!) double-digit sack guy since 2014. That was Chandler Jones back in 2015, when he had 12.5. In fact, Trey Flowers led the Patriots in sacks each of the last three seasons without ever having more than the 7.5 he notched last season, which was his only year with Flores as his defensive playcaller.

Although Flores only called plays in 2018, he had worked for the Patriots his whole coaching career. It’s a guess, but I would think the Dolphins will be running something similar to what Flores was baptized in while in New England.

That doesn’t mean that the Patriots’ system isn’t conducive to having a guy with big sack numbers up front, but I will say that I do think Flowers is a helluva defensive lineman who has a tremendous ability to rush the passer. So the fact that he was never able to get to 10 sacks or more in that system, even while having good seasons, isn’t something I can or would ignore.

In light of that context, I don’t think it will necessarily be fair to judge Harris solely, or even primarily, by how many sacks he gets this year. I do believe Harris’ sack numbers will jump up this season, but I think he can have a terrific season with six or more sacks. It would certainly be an improvement in his numbers, and he can affect the games in ways other than just rushing the passer.

One thing I am pretty sure of: If he can have a similar kind of impact on Miami’s defense that Flowers had on the Patriots’ D the past several seasons, I don’t think anybody will be calling Harris a “disappointment” any longer.

At the end of the day, Harris as a breakout candidate should be somewhat of a no-brainer, provided he doesn’t get hurt. As a former first-round pick, Harris he would damn near have to fall on his face to not end up as a starter this season with Wake and Quinn gone. The kid is a good player who is still growing, and this should be the season when he starts to put it all together.

Everything is set up for Charles Harris to really take off this year as a player. Now it is up to him to actually go out there and seize the moment so he can finally shake these haters off.

Confidence level: High