You can call “The Hitman” soft at your own risk, but Jets middle linebacker David Harris is feeling warm and fuzzy. And he has great reason to have plenty of joy in his heart considering he and his wife, Jiali, are celebrating the early days of their precious 5½-month-old daughter, Alya.
“She’s just a bundle of joy,” Harris told me on our recent Jets Minicamp Live show. “Every time I come home, she has a big smile on her face. She’s not crawling yet, but she’s trying to. She’s rolling and she’s always in a playful mood. It’s always a good thing to come home to her after a long day of work.”
Like Alya, Harris keeps rolling along. The 6’2”, 250-pounder is preparing for his sixth NFL season and one fan asked how it makes him feel that head coach Rex Ryan has stated that he’d do anything he could to help Harris earn a Pro Bowl invitation.
“I don’t know if there’s much that Rex can do, but all I have to do is control what I do on the field and that’s getting better each day, perfecting my craft, being the same person every day and trying to be a leader on this defense,” he said. “Everything else that happens would be great, but I’m more interested in helping the team out any way I can.”
It is the essence of David Harris — substance over style throughout his career. Last season, he quietly again led the team with 117 tackles (78 solo), tied for the team lead with four INTs, and was second on the club with five sacks. The perfection of the craft continues.
“One thing I’m focusing on this offseason is trying to become a step quicker, becoming leaner and just trying to be lighter on my feet,” Harris said. “I think a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball have that same mentality. We know that we take a lot of pride in our defense and the way to that is to be in great physical shape, so that we can play longer and try to make that run, which we try to do every year.”
Ryan has said the Green & White continue to work on man coverage with their linebackers. Harris told me he’s decreasing his body fat, Bart Scott is down 10 pounds and Demario Davis, the third-round draft selection from Arkansas State, possesses 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.
“Everybody knows what type of talent we have on the outside with Cromartie and Revis, and with Kyle in the slot. We know that we’re going to get attacked in the middle of the field and the tight end has become a big role in a lot of teams’ offenses,” Harris said. “So we have to be prepared to cover the middle of the field and that’s the backs included. We know that we have our hands full and we have to be prepared for anything the offense may throw at us.”
Offenses are again going to have to prepare for the tandem of Harris and Scott. “The Madbacker” has been one of the top stories of the spring, setting the tone on the practice field.
“You can hear Bart a mile away and he gives it to the offensive players every time they make a mistake. It’s just funny to hear because you know he’s back comfortable and being himself,” Harris said. “When you’re comfortable being yourself, you’re able to go out there and play the way you know how to play.”
Davis, who should be a valuable contributor immediately in sub packages and on special teams, is wise beyond his years.
“Demario is a step beyond any rookie that I’ve seen,” Harris said. “To be as young as he is, he is very mature. He’s very dedicated and focused on his craft. He’s always one of the first guys out at practice and one of the last guys to leave the field, and that’s always encouraging to see from a rookie.”
The Jets have increased their speed all around the defense and S LaRon Landry, another burner, hasn’t participated in team activities as of yet.
“I notice that across the board,” said Harris. “If you have been following the Jets since Rex got here, I’ll say we’re faster than the ’09 team and that says a lot.”
That ’09 unit finished No. 1 in total defense (252.3 yards allowed per game) and No. 1 in points (14.8 allowed) as the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game in Year 1 of the Rex regime. Ryan has indicated that he’s going back to his roots and that means more involvement in the defensive meeting rooms with the players.
“Scheme-wise it’s not going to be that different. It’s just that little things involved in each defense are going to be stressed more,” said the Hitman. “Little things like technique that you may not cover as much because you assume guys have understood what to do, but each day you emphasize little things. You always try to get better at something small, which may not have happened in years past.”
Minicamp will conclude today here in Florham Park, N.J., and Harris has a family vacation planned during his down time. But the new dad promises he’ll be ready for training camp and 2012. This Hitman has a heart, but business is still business.
“Me, my wife and my daughter are going away to Barbados for five days. First family trip, my daughter’s first time in a plane, so hopefully she won’t be acting up too much on the plane,” he said. “It is good to get away after these tough couple of months we had working out here and it’s always good to get away before the season starts. Once the season starts, it’s on.”
Tags: Bart Scott, David Harris, Demario Davis, Hitman, LaRon Landry, minicamp, Rex Ryan
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