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Rookie DT Harrell: Good & Bad Reviews

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by TOPHAT, Aug 26, 2007.

  1. TOPHAT

    TOPHAT Cheesehead

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    http://www.packersnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070826/PKR01/708260698/1989

    Jury's still out on Harrell

    By the time Justin Harrell brought down Jacksonville's D.D. Terry on Thursday night, more than 55 minutes of game time had elapsed and the Green Bay Packers had all but cleared their bench. The play encapsulated the potential the Packers saw in Harrell when they selected him 16th overall in April's NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive tackle knocked back guard Tuten Reyes from the line of scrimmage, then kept Reyes engaged as he reached out his free arm to haul down Terry for a 1-yard loss, with assistance from safety Charlie Peprah. Yet the timing — in mop-up duty, against a third-string guard and a fifth-string running back, surrounded by reserves and players fighting to avoid the waiver wire — is the caveat that has marked each successful moment in Harrell's preseason.

    He's spent practices with the scout team and games with the practice-squad sect. He's struggled in one-on-one drills and hasn't cracked the primary rotation, all the while taking 25 to 30 percent more reps than any other defensive tackle as he tries to play himself into football shape after nearly a year on the sideline. Recent history shows defensive tackles sometimes need a little more time to develop into starters than players at other positions. But real games start two weeks from today, and there's little reason — barring an injury or trade involving Ryan Pickett, Corey Williams, Colin Cole or Johnny Jolly — to believe the Packers could justify having their first-round pick in uniform Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.

    "That's a pretty good first-four rotation," General Manager Ted Thompson said last week. "But Justin's doing OK. I know there's a lot of speculation on No. 1 picks, and people saying, 'Well, what about this? What about this?' "I think he's going to be a fine player, and I'm sure he would probably like to have a little more success. But he's had his moments in preseason games. But again, that's part of being a rookie, too, is kind of learning the speed of the game and learning the violence that's in there."

    From 2002 to 2006, teams drafted 19 players as defensive tackles in the first round. Only seven (36.8 percent) started at least half their teams' games as rookies, but 12 of 16 (75 percent) who have played multiple seasons were starters in Year 2. There have been busts — University of Wisconsin product Wendell Bryant (12th in 2002 to Arizona) and Johnathan Sullivan (sixth in 2003 to New Orleans) had off-the-field issues and are out of the league — but the majority have been serviceable or better. Minnesota's Kevin Williams (ninth in 2003) and Chicago's Tommie Harris (14th in 2004) have been selected to multiple Pro Bowls. Amobi Okoye, the 10th overall pick by the Houston Texans, was the only other defensive tackle taken in the first round this year. Okoye's readiness for NFL competition has been questioned as well, but he isn't coming off a major injury like Harrell, who missed all but three games in his senior season at the University of Tennessee because of a ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm.

    Harrell sat out contact drills in both minicamps and organized team activity practices as a precaution. So the past month, particularly the first 10 days of training camp, has been dedicated to regaining stamina, adjusting to his increased weight — 310 pounds, up from 300 in college — lowering his pad level and acclimating to the speed of the NFL. "He's a little bit behind, and I tell him that," defensive tackles coach Nunn said before the Jacksonville game. "He's taken a lot of practice reps, which I know his legs are not under him by no means, and so that's been a factor. Once he gets to slow down a little bit and get his legs underneath him, that's going to help him that much more. But right now, we don't have that luxury of slowing him down." Coaches felt Harrell played well in roughly two dozen snaps in the preseason opener at Pittsburgh, in which he registered three tackles and sacked third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre. But he left that game early because of fatigue — forcing an offensive lineman, Travis Leffew, to take his place the final series — and was less effective Aug. 18 against Seattle, a game in which he played more than 40 snaps and assisted on only one tackle. "He's got to learn from that," Nunn said. "He's got to play when he's tired. He's got to get in a good stance when he's tired. He's got to play fast with his hands when he's tired. He's got to do all those things, so that's part of the learning process of being a rookie. But he's steadily getting better."

    Harrell's other notable play Thursday was in the third quarter, when he got two hands in the face of Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich. For the most part, though, Harrell blended in during his roughly two dozen plays from scrimmage, double-teamed a handful of times but often stood up one-on-one. Harrell has been listed since before training camp as the starter next to the seventh-year veteran Pickett, but Williams has started all three games, with Cole and Jolly rotating in regularly. Starting end Cullen Jenkins also moves inside in certain situations, leaving little room for Harrell with the front line. Each of the players in front of Harrell can verify the difficulty of getting into the lineup as rookies. None of them started a game in their first year out of college, and Cole and Jenkins didn't even appear in one.

    Then again, none of those players entered the NFL under the scrutiny that comes with being a first-round pick. Asked whether he'd be OK with Harrell not dressing for the season opener, Thompson hesitated before saying, "I suppose. I guess it's happened before." The last time it happened in Green Bay was 2001, when defensive end Jamal Reynolds was selected 10th overall, a pick the Packers acquired by trading quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to the Seattle Seahawks — where Thompson was vice president of football operations. Reynolds sat out the season's first 11 games. He totaled three sacks in three seasons before the Packers cut him, cementing his status as one of the biggest draft busts in team history. Praising Harrell's coachability and steady improvement, Packers coaches maintain Harrell will make a far more positive impact. Perhaps sooner than his limited preseason role makes it seem. "He's just got a lot of areas he's got to come on in," Nunn said. "I talk to him at least every other day, but probably every day about it. I think he will definitely be contributing early in the season."
    ______________________________________________________________

    http://www.acmepackingcompany.com/story/2007/8/26/18181/6418

    Is Justin Harrell A Bust?

    He hasn't played very well this season, and he's been spending more time lately with the second stringers and less with time with the starters. He's been outplayed this preseason by DTs Corey Williams and Johnny Jolly, but he's been about as good as DTs Ryan Pickett and Colin Cole. The best thing about Harrell is that he's never played bad. He might not be creating much of a pass rush or leading the defensive line in tackles, but he's not getting shoved all over the field either. He is a rookie and although it might not take a long time to learn to play his position, he does have to get used to the speed and the caliber of players he is playing against. It should take a several games or even his entire rookie season to get used to it. Unlike the list of the worst 1st round busts listed in the above linked article, he doesn't have any (known) off field problems to worry about. Plus Pelissero makes a good point that it should take some period of time for him to get back into football shape after not playing for approximately nine months. Although his injury happened at Tennessee around late September, early October, he didn't play in any of the minicamps (as far as I recall) and didn't get back on the field until last month. He's not a bust and although he doesn't deserve to start, he's going to get playing time and improve as the season goes on, and will be an important part of the defensive tackle rotation by the end of the season.
    ______________________________________________________________

    http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=651974

    ...Rookie DT Harrell continued to struggle against backups. "He played slow and looked sluggish," one scout said. "Poor reactions. He stalled out on the line of scrimmage rushing the passer. He got knocked back too far one time on the goal line."
     
  2. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    He's a rookie with injury problems. I woulda been shocked if he was playing pro bowl level football right off the bat.

    As long as he can contribute throughout the year, and is ready to play at a high level(starting) in a year or two, he won't be a bust.
     
  3. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

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    There have been quite a few DT busts in the past couple years. The funny thing is that we do not need our first round pick to play well (or at all) to have a good year.

    DT is one of the strongest positions on this team with Jolly, Pickett, Williams, Harrell, Cole, and Cullen Jenkins on passing downs. This depth at DT kind of makes me wonder why we took Jenkins when there was some decent WRs, CB, and safety's available. Oh well...

    I really hope Harrell get into playing condition and earns a starting spot at some point this year. I like how the coaching staff is not giving him one, but making him earn it. I would hate to see him rushed back from his injury too soon and get his confidence crushed.

    It's nice to have the luxury to bring the rookies in slowly. I think the only rookies that start will be Crosby and Korey Hall.
     
  4. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    Man some things do not change. Are we going to hear this every year with first round picks the Packers take? At least with TT at the helm? AR looks like a bust, but uh oh all of a sudden he doesn't. AJ looked like a bust, but uh oh now he doesn't. Geez I wish these idiot writers would give Harrell some time for crying out loud.
     
  5. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

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    I can understand that Harrell will need time, and thankfully the Packers can afford to give him that time because we have a solid DT rotation already.

    The most encouraging thing thus far has been that Harrell hasn't gotten injured. He had an injury history in college, and thankfully he has yet to experience any injury that has led him to miss time (knock on wood).
     
  6. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    I think he'll be a solid player but I think better players were still on the board. Guys like Greg Olsen and Dwayne Bowe. However not taking Bowe is okay with me since I really am impressed with James Jones. Still the Harrell pick is kind of sour right now because Greg Olsen would do so much for this team.
     
  7. axelred13

    axelred13 Cheesehead

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    I'd like to know who thought Hawk was a bust?
     
  8. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    I remember Chris Havel of the Green Bay Press Gazette was very critical of Hawk at least up until the last couple exhibition games of his rookie year. Hawk did take a little time catching on, partly because he missed the minicamps while he was getting his college degree.

    I don't think Havel actually said Hawk was a bust, though. I can't think of anyone else who might have said Hawk was a bust.
     
  9. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    hey spelling champ, why did your hero, TT, draft an injured player with his first pick? I can't wait for your simple one line response that has little to do with football.
     
  10. Popcynical

    Popcynical Cheesehead

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    I'll answer for him:

    Because his potential was too good to pass up. He was injured... so what? Not like we need him right away. Give him some time to develop and you'll see why he was a first round pick.
     
  11. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    I'd prefer the spelling champ to offer his wisdom of his hero TT, but I guess the spelling champ can not speak for himself unless it is a simple sentence.
    But if DT is so deep, and there are so many needs, why did you pass over Olsen and Griffin? or is this a forbidden subject.
     
  12. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    How do you know Olsen or Griffin will be any good?
     
  13. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    i know i saw griffin have two picks in a pre-season game this year.
     
  14. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    Ok?
     
  15. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    Can we please discuss Justin Harrell, like the topic says and not turn this into a Ted Thompson debate.
     
  16. Popcynical

    Popcynical Cheesehead

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    Because drafting the "Best Player Available" is usually the most beneficial for the future.
     
  17. Packnic

    Packnic Cheesehead

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    i know i saw Jarrett Bush have two picks in a pre-season game this year.

    cheer for the packers for once.. you might like it.
     
  18. Bertram

    Bertram Cheesehead

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    wow, we're winnings games, our starters seem solid, our defense might be one of the best in the league and still TT is being bashed. Some time ago some of you even compared him to Millen.
     
  19. Lare

    Lare Cheesehead

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    I guess I never expected Harrell to produce much from the start so I can't get disappointed with how little he'll produce this year. In addition to his time off for injuries, DTs generally need at least a year in the weightroom before they get the upper body strength necessary to compete at a high level.

    My only concern is reading articles about his lack of conditioning, especially in his legs. Biceps injuries don't usually stop someone from keeping their legs in shape. That usually comes from a lack of dedication and motivation.
     
  20. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    I wasn't surprised by Harrell's slow start. A couple weeks ago he finally seemed to be coming around a bit, but now he's regressed, which is discouraging. I wonder if the coaches were right to give him so many reps in practice right off the bat. Maybe they should've started him out slowly.
     
  21. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

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    I'm disappointed in Harrell, but that's my fault. It's been my history to expect too much from #1 picks too soon. So I set myself up for disappointment, for sure. That said, if he doesn't show marked improvement next year, my worst fears will be realized. By improvement I don't mean Pro-bowl, but I do mean in the 1st team rotation. In the meantime, I feel it would be a huge mistake for TT to trade one of the DTs. We're good there now but one injury there could really set us back. The D is our one big hope this year, don't play games with it.(no pun intended) As mentioned, Harrell's lack of conditioning at this late date is mystifying.
     
  22. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    well Normally high expectations right away in a #1 pick is warranted, but after looking at the situation for a second...it wasnt going to happen, by plan.

    1. He's injured, and returning from injury.
    2. He plays on one of the most DEEP D-lines in the NFL.

    The second he was signed, the plan was to move him in slow(obvious by him not doing much early on even though he said he could. They were cautious, rightfully so), and let him get used to the NFL this year, through preseason, and being in the rotation come regular season.

    Anyone who thought Harrell would come in (injured) and become the #1 DT on the team right off the bat isn't very bright, or at least not looking at the situation closely.

    Gramps gets a pass because he's old.
     
  23. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    At the beginning of training camp, Mike McCarthy projected Harrell as one of the starting DT's. I don't think he would have done that unless he really believed Harrell was likely to be capable of starting by opening day. It looks to me like Harrell is taking longer to get into the swing of things than the coaching staff anticipated. That's not the end of the world, but it is a bit disappointing, especially considering that he's not even close to being good enough to start. He may be the sixth best DT on the team right now. Let's hope he's at least able to work his way into the rotation by the end of the season.
     
  24. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    I think A.J. Hawk spoiled us. Before Hawk it was a long time before a 1st round pick actually did anything good for the Packers or made a big impact. So I think we all expected that if Hawk can do it then perhaps the next guy will as well when that will not be the case. I highly doubt Harrell is even activated for Philly assuming we don't trade one of our "fab" 4 DT's.

    EDIT: Greg Olsen would likely be starting.

    So I'm def not happy with Harrell right now even if my expectations weren't that great to begin with.
     
  25. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    He may have put him ahead on the depth chart, but he did start him with the third stringers right away so it kind of cancels each other out.
     

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