Steve Spagnuolo believes that Damon Harrison should be in the Pro Bowl:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –In 2016, Damon Harrison did not make the Pro Bowl, but was selected first-team All-Pro, a somewhat rare splitting of honors. This season's Pro Bowl voters also failed to choose Harrison, who is a fourth alternate.
Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo believes the sixth-year defensive tackle deserves more recognition.
"But I'm biased," Spagnuolo said. "I just think he's one of the premier inside, interior linemen in this league. Now, I don't get my eyes on all of the other D-linemen, so I don't want to pass judgement on that, because I'm certainly looking at more offenses than I am defense. But I'd be hard-pressed to say that there's many that do as many things as he does for us. I haven't seen the other names. I just know I'm a Damon Harrison fan."
Harrison, speaking publicly today for the first time since the Pro Bowl teams were announced Tuesday (safety Landon Collins was the only Giants player selected), said he appreciated his coach's endorsement.
"It's Spags. I know he's one of my biggest supporters," Harrison said. "We've built a great relationship over the past two years, and I just think I do a good job of doing exactly what he asks me to do. So any time he shows some support for me publicly, I know he'll be more than happy to do it. But not only to receive the recognition from people outside of this building, but to have guys in this building know I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to do, that's a little more satisfying than a Pro Bowl."
Pro Bowl voters apparently still look for big sacks totals from defensive linemen, including tackles, while under-appreciating the importance of a stout run-stopper. Harrison is one of the NFL's best at clogging up running lanes and bringing down ballcarriers. He has 66 tackles (43 solo), but only 1.5 sacks.
The three interior linemen selected for the NFC Pro Bowl team have combined for 21.0 sacks – Los Angeles' Aaron Donald (11.0), Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox (5.0), and Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy (5.0). Donald and McCoy are their teams sack leaders.
Harrison is often removed from the game in passing situations.
"I think if I played more on third down then possibly (he'd receive more consideration)," he said, "but the scheme is not fit for me to be in on third down, and that's what they ask me to do. I just try to excel on first and second down and whatever third down opportunities I get, but most definitely if I was in on third."
"It's hard to get them (sacks)," Spagnuolo said. "He's not always in there in the third down passing situations. So if we had him in there more in those down and distances, he might have more, because he's talented and he can get a middle push, which you need in pass rush. Helps the guys on the outside. Actually, last week he was in there on a few third down plays. So, maybe we'll get more of those."
Harrison is proud of the way he has played in a season in which the team has struggled (2-12 record).
"At that point when you're not achieving the team goals, you have to just look within yourself," he said. "I think you should do that in the beginning as well, because if you can be the best that you can possibly be, then that will help the team go. Unfortunately, this year we weren't able to accomplish what we set out to accomplish. No matter the outcome of games or whether we have a winning record or a losing record, we just got to go out there and keep fighting. I don't want to be one of those guys 10 years from now when they're talking about this Giants team and they can say I wasn't handling my business."
*Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn didn't attempt to sugarcoat his feelings about his unit's performance last week against Philadelphia. In order, the Giants' first extra point attempt was blocked in the first quarter, a blocked Brad Wing punt in the second quarter led to an Eagles touchdown, and the chance to take a fourth-quarter lead evaporated when Aldrick Rosas' 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
"It's awful. It's awful," Quinn said. "Its's more than that (the lost points), you've got the blocked punt that led to a touchdown. I feel awful."
So what exactly happened?
"Poor fundamentals and that's on me," Quinn said. "So I've got to get that corrected. The PAT, we missed that and then we ended up chasing those points all game, which makes it really tough to play. I thought the offense, defense played their butts off and we didn't come through."
Quinn said the Eagles didn't do anything schematically unexpected.
"No, we prepared for what they were doing," he said. "The first one they got us, and the second one, we were kind of overcompensating for what they did the first time, and they got us on the outside. So good rush by them, poor protection by us."
*As he did yesterday, rookie quarterback Davis Webb took six of the eight snaps in the competition portion of practice (first-team offense vs. first-team defense).
"It was the same formula," Spagnuolo said. "We had eight competitive snaps. Four in the red zone. Four were all third down, which is a key down for the both those situational football are really important for us to win games and he had six of them. After watching the film I thought he did a pretty good job yesterday. There were a couple things in there that need to be ironed out. I'd have to see the film on it today."
"Davis did a lot of good things," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "He has things he needs to improve upon. The things that have stood out is all the preparation – things that he's done behind the scenes in the meeting room; you can tell that he's someone that was able to take that information and he didn't freeze up. Again, it's a different animal in a sense because we're going against the Giant defense and on the one hand gives great competition. They're playing fast, but the scheme is different obviously than what we're going to see from Arizona. But in terms of just the operation and having a sense of what was part of it, he did a good job."
Spagnuolo reiterated that the increased practice workload does not guarantee that Webb will play in – or even be in uniform for - either of the final two games, Sunday at Arizona or at home against Washington on Dec. 31.
"We'll find out as we go," Spagnuolo said. "It's a day-to-day thing. We only know if we can get him in there and get him some work and go from there. The last thing you want to do is put somebody in a game when they haven't had enough work. I don't think that would be fair, either."
*The same four players who missed practice yesterday did so again today: safety Landon Collins (ankle), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion), and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger).
Spagnuolo said he has "a little bit" of concern about JPP.
"He's got some bumps and bruises," Spagnuolo said. "We're trying to be smart with him. He's one of the guys hopefully we get him out here tomorrow, get him moving around and feel good about playing him on Sunday."
Two players were added to the injury report and practiced on a limited basis: tackle Ereck Flowers (groin) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (not injury related). Also limited were safety Nat Berhe (hamstring) and cornerback Brandon Dixon (heel/hamstring).
"We just would like to get Landon back, but not sure there," Spagnuolo said. "O.V. is dealing with, most of the guys up front are dealing with something. Guys are fighting through it and we're trying to be smart. Protect them from themselves. Give some guys some reps off here and there and try to get ourselves to a game.
"It was a little bit of everything (with Vernon). He's one of those guys you want to make sure that he's fresh on Sunday. We're just being smart."
View the best images from Thursday's practice