The Green Bay Packers have been lucky enough to have one of the top cornerbacks in the game for the past six seasons in Al Harris.
In his early Packers career, I used to refer to him as “Solid,” i.e. Al “Solid” Harris, because that’s what he was – not spectacular, just fucking solid.
Harris has never been anything but solid as a Packer, as far as I’m concerned, and we have no reason to believe he’ll be anything but until he shows us that this is the case. He’ll never be spectacular, like, say, Charles Woodson, but he’s one of the finest man-to-man corners in recent memory. Al Harris is fundamentally solid, he’s smart, and he knows how to play the game.
Last season, based on a complex statistical analysis, Football Outsiders named Harris the best cornerback in the league, but then the whispers started.
Al Harris (who will be 35 in December) has lost a step – the Packers need to draft his successor. That successor, a rumor that proved to be inaccurate, was supposed to be Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins, who was drafted by New Orleans at No. 14.
Al Harris isn’t fit to play the 3-4 defense. His skills are tailored to man-to-man coverage, and the 3-4 is largely a zone-based system.
While the latter is true, Al Harris had a few choice words for the naysayers, which you can count me among. I did, after all, introduce the notion that someone like Tramon Williams, who is more of a read-and-react corner, might fit the mold of the defense better.
Harris, who has been participating in OTAs, said this about anyone who might question his ability to play corner in any NFL system, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“Who says that?” Harris said. “I haven’t heard one scout say that. Just for your knowledge, when you ask these types of questions, zone is much easier to play than man. That’s the way it is. That’s why they call it man and zone.”
“Why, why wouldn’t it suit me? We’re not hacks here. We’re pros. Man, I’m a corner. There isn’t a technique that I haven’t played.”
Fuck, Al, we’re sorry for doubting you.
Harris, of course, is right. If he can play the tougher of the two styles (man), then he should be able to make the adjustment to zone coverage. That is, of course, unless he has lost a step, something the Press Gazette didn’t bother to question.
No one has ever accused Harris of being the fastest guy on the field to begin with, and although he’s had a tremendous career, age catches up with everyone. In the NFL, it usually catches up to the best players in their mid-30s.
The good thing is Harris is working on the transition now, while certain other defensive backs are who knows where… [cough] Nick Collins [cough, cough] Charles Woodson.
The other good thing is Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers is more than willing to tailor the defense to his player’s strengths.
“We want to have the ability to play both (man-to-man and zone),” Capers said. “If you’re locked into one, you can be too predictable, and from what I’ve seen, I think we’ll have enough ability to play what we want, and that might vary from one week to the next.”
Good answer, Dom.
I’m getting excited to see this defense in action, especially the Packers’ secondary. If there’s any position that Green Bay has plentiful depth, should someone not be able to play something, it’s cornerback.