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Damon Harrison: "Seamless transition" to new defensive scheme

Posted Jul 23, 2016

DT Damon Harrison discusses the transition to a 4-3 defense with the Giants:  

When the Giants landed Damon Harrison in free agency, the defensive tackle did more than just change from green to blue. He made the switch from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense.

Harrison, who earned his reputation as one of the best run stuffers in the NFL playing in the 3-4 with the Jets, insisted the difference was overblown upon his arrival. After weeks of spring workouts in Steve Spagnuolo’s four-man front, Harrison stood by that and said the transition has not been a big deal at all.

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“The more and more we’re practicing, I get the reps, I’m becoming that much better in it,” Harrison said with the Giants set to report to training camp on July 28. “It’s been a seamless transition.”

After playing in five games as an undrafted rookie in 2012, Harrison started all 16 games in each of the last three seasons with the Jets. In those years, the co-tenants of MetLife Stadium finished third, fifth and second against the run.

That’s why the Giants targeted him this offseason while also signing defensive end Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The trio made up one of the biggest free-agent hauls for the Giants in recent years in the hopes of turning around the last-ranked defense in 2015.

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“You have to build a new identity for this defense,” Harrison said. “Coach Spags talks a lot about what happened last year is in the past and stuff like that, but we have to build our own identity this year and physicality has to be No. 1.” And what do they want that identity to be?

“Coach Spags says it all the time: we want to be able to bully, people don’t want to see us, they dread playing against that defense,” Harrison continued. “And that’s what I’m here for and that’s what I want to be a part of.”

In addition to stonewalling running backs at the line of scrimmage, Harrison’s role could expand to getting after the quarterback in the backfield. Harrison had just 1.5 sacks with the Jets.

“Well, first off, it starts with getting my body leaner, losing some weight, doing drills I’ve never done before, being put in positions I’ve never been in before, and taking coaching,” said Harrison, also known as “Snacks” around the league. “I’ve always taken coaching, but it’s just different now. I’m trying to think and learn as a pass rusher as opposed to a guy who is stopping the run. I think that’ll help me, and people will be surprised with what they see.”