Harris' coverage skills will be tested

Ironically, for a New England Patriot team that ranks first in just about every offensive category, it is unlikely they will finish the season with a 1000 yard rusher.

In what could be a historic season, Bill Belichick has shunned conventional offensive wisdom and relied so heavily on his lethal air attack and this has rendered the team's ground game nearly obsolete.

The lack of a run game creates an interesting scenario for Jets rookie linebacker, David Harris.

Harris' stout 6'2 243 pound frame fits the 3-4 'run stuffer' mold perfectly. And stuff the run is precisely the reason why the Jets traded up to select him. In this regard, Harris has been brilliant. His 100 tackles on the season are the most by any Jet and rank him among the top 15 in the league. Even more startling about the statistic is that he has only started six games.

However, Eric Mangini's defense relies heavily on the versatility of its linebackers and Harris' impact has been felt largely in the run game. This weekend should be a good barometer as to how far he has come in pass coverage.

His ability to rack up gaudy tackling statistics has earned the Michigan alum NFL's "Rookie Defensive Player of the Week" nominations on almost a weekly basis. But Eric Mangini is quick to point out that although his play against the run has grabbed the headlines, it has been his overall play that has been most impressive.

"He's done a good job," Mangini said when asked about the development of Harris. "He's done a nice job in the running game with his fits. What I've liked with David is that in the passing game, he's got a pretty good feel for a young guy of how routes develop. There's a lot of work to be done there, but he's got a good feel. Often times you're either really good in one area or really good in the other, and he's got the potential to continue to grow in both areas."

Sunday afternoon will be a tough test for the rookie as not only does Tom Brady throw often, but he also likes to spread the ball around to as many of his weapons as possible; a fact that Harris and his defensive mates are well aware of.

"Ya, no doubt," Harris said when asked if his preparation has changed given the Patriots pass happy offense. "Every week it changes, especially with this team [Patriots]. They have a lot of weapons on offense; it's not just one player that they go to. They have numerous weapons. Three great receivers, an athletic tight end and (Lawrence) Maroney is back there. Plus their headed by Tom Brady who is one of the best quarterback's in the league. So, their just making our job that much harder."

One element that seems to be playing in the Jets favor is the forecast. Cold temperatures, high winds and a wintry mix is expected for Sunday. Although the Jets say they are prepared, perhaps it is mother-nature that has the best chance of slowing down the Patriots amazing passing offense.


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