Even if you can spot change on the horizon, there still can be a shock when it becomes final. No stranger to roster upheaval, David Harris admits that it may have taken a moment to adjust to the Jets’ personnel alterations.
“When there was a lot going down in the offseason, it was kind of strange seeing some key veterans let go who were mainstays and great players for the organization for a long time,” he said after a voluntary workout. “But all you can do is trust the coaches and front office, knowing that they make the best decisions for our team. And so far in offseason workouts and these meetings, guys are getting after it.”
A second-round pick of the Jets in the 2007 NFL Draft, Harris is getting after it for an 11th consecutive offseason. He is the last of an era. Center Nick Mangold, a Round 1 selection in 2006, cornerback Darrelle Revis, a first-round selection Harris’ 2007 class and kicker Nick Folk, a teammate since 2010, were all released this offseason. Wideout Brandon Marshall, a fourth-round pick of Denver back in 2006, will line up next fall for the cross-town Giants.
“It’s just part of the game. Everybody has an end date in this sport — you can’t play forever,” Harris said. “But it was definitely tough to see those guys leave because of the memories we had together, the ups and downs, the good days and the bad days.”
There are no bad days right now for the 33-year-old Harris. The Jets have a lot of new blood and Harris also likes what he has seen from a trio of new defense coaches in DL coach Robert Nunn, OLB coach Kevin Greene and DB coach Dennard Wilson.
“I’m excited for everything, all the pieces that are coming in. The rookies and the guys that are here right now, but I think I’m more excited about the coaches that we brought in on the defensive side, a lot of experience playing and a lot of experience coaching in this league,” he said. “Just a new and fresh point of view on a lot of things and I think it’s going to help us out a lot.”
Head coach Todd Bowles has stressed tempo this offseason, focusing on the importance of playing faster and reacting.
“They’re going 100 miles per hour and they expect the players to do the same,” Harris said of the coaches. “I think it’s a good standard that they’re setting, making sure guys are hustling and making sure guys know what to do and own up to their position and their roles on this defense. I think it’s going to be a good improvement.”
Slated to play alongside Darron Lee for a second consecutive season, Harris believes the NFL sophomore is poised to take his game to another level.
“I expect Darron to have a huge leap this year. I know the game is going to slow down for him, he’s going to start recognizing certain things out there on the field which he may not have seen last year,” he said. “It was his first time seeing a lot of things.”
Best Images of the Veteran LB During the 2016 Season
It will be the first time seeing things for both of the Jets’ top picks, a pair of talented safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Harris, who has appeared in 154 regular-season games, will be a valuable resource for the new tandem.
“We have to have good communication because without good communication a big play or a blown assignment is prone to happen. We can’t have that,” he said. “With this being my third year in this defense and having seen so much football that I have, I know I can help them out making calls.”
As a constant in the midst of transition, Harris has only missed five games throughout his career. He has led the club in tackles in nine of his 10 seasons and is second on the team’s all-time list. The Hitman is not thinking about his end date just yet.
“I’d never guess I’d be playing 11 seasons when I first came in, but I’ve been fortunate to have been pretty healthy,” he said. “We have a great training staff that’s led by John Mellody and Justus Galac, who runs the strength program. I’ve been fortunate to be able to play a lot of football and stay on the field a lot, so I tip my hat to them.”