Anthony Harris received the first playing time of his career a week ago and tied the team high in tackles with eight and recorded a pass breakup on a potential touchdown.
Plenty of teammates were high on the young safety moving forward, but head coach Mike Zimmer put the brakes on the excitement last week, saying he wasn’t ready to call Harris the savior yet.
However, with Harrison Smith out a second game in a row on Sunday, Harris recorded his second start in a row. He had six tackles and a pass deflection against the Chicago Bears, but once again Zimmer made it clear that the young safety still has plenty to learn.
“He did OK, missed a tackle, had a couple missed alignments,” the head coach said of Harris’ performance on Sunday. “The thing about Anthony, if you tell him where he’s supposed to be he’s going to be there 99 percent of the time. During the game we made some adjustments and he didn’t adjust as quickly because all week long we practiced a certain way, so those are things he’s going to have to learn to be able to figure out.”
Nobody came out straight and said it, but it seems as though one of the mistakes that Harris made was on the touchdown to Alshon Jeffery. Zimmer said that the team had some mistakes with miscommunication on the defense, with the most notable mistake coming on that touchdown.
After the play, veteran cornerback Terence Newman was talking to Harris, who seemed to be more towards the middle of the field than he maybe should have been.
“Terence is a smart guy so he was just telling me different ins and outs based on what the game plan was this week,” Harris said when asked what Newman was telling him after that play. “Just reminding me different tips for the coverages and we were just communicating to make sure we were on the same page.”
Even though Harris made some mistakes during the game, he still made some good plays that you may not always see from an undrafted rookie playing in just his second NFL game. The most notable one was just before halftime when he brok up a pass deep downfield intended for Jeffery.
Harris was aware of the situation in the game and thought that they might want to take a shot downfield to try to get in a position to get some points on the board. He was keying in on Jay Cutler and saw Jeffery do a bit of a half roll and thought they could be coming back to his side with the ball.
When the ball was in the air, Harris was able to get in front of Jeffery and slow him down enough to stop him from getting to the ball, without drawing a pass interference penalty.
“I just tried to become the receiver a little bit,” he said. “Pick myself a position and not pick up a pass interference but slow him down enough so I could make a play on it, and just make the chances go in my favor instead of his.”
His ability to place himself in a position to slow Jeffery down and not pick up a pass interference penalty is something you normally see from players with more experience, but Harris showed once again that he may be a little farther along than someone else in his position.
Teammates raved about his knowledge for the game and his habits in the film room, and that play showed off both assets. He knew what how to position himself to make a play without drawing a flag and he was able to recognize what the receiver was doing by watching the route and the quarterback.
Harris knows he is not yet where he needs to be and he might have to assume a backup role once Smith returns to the lineup, but he seems OK with that.
“It’s just about playing our assignments and giving the team a chance to come out with a win,” he said. “I just try to go out there and try not to get tied up into being a savior, but just go out there and be the guy who can help the defense win and get off the field.”