The Eagles last week reached an agreement on a one-year deal with free agent safety Anthony Harris.
It was a move that might have flown under the radar nationally, but was considered a pretty good one, at least according to several pundits.
But it’s fair to wonder what the Eagles are getting in Harris.
The 29-year-old had an incredible 2019 season, leading the NFL in interceptions despite playing just 14 games. He also had 11 pass breakups. But in 2020, he didn’t have a single interception.
So what went wrong in 2020? Well, there were a multitude of factors. But on the latest Eagle Eye podcast, we were joined by Andrew Krammer of The Star Tribune, who expects Harris to have a bounce back season in 2020.
Krammer pointed at an inexperienced secondary as a big reason for the down stats. The Vikings lost cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander from the 2019 season to 2020.
“Those three in front of him in 2018, 2019, that really allowed him to be a ballhawk, it allowed him to range around the field, sideline to sideline, play that free safety role,” Krammer said. “The Vikings really liked to put Harrison Smith in the box, they liked to let him work down low and they liked to have Anthony back because he’s really good with his vision. He can see things, anticipates things and it goes back to his preparation and his play study. Last year, though, they had rookie corners. They had to play a lot more two deep. He was just responsible for, ‘Hey, stay over top of this corner and make sure they don’t get beat on the double move, we don’t get beat on something else.’ He had to worry about a lot. And you could tell when you go back and watch some of the plays where he got beat for touchdowns, it’s because he’s watching some sort of underneath route, worried that the young corner’s not necessarily going to pick up on the right read.
“Because they play a lot of switching defense with the Vikings, where it’s just pattern matching and reading and it’s really hard for rookies. Anthony had to kind of be that coach on the field and pick that up for a lot of those guys. And he didn’t have an interception. I think that was a big part of why, was just the teammates around him. And the way the Vikings play defense, they weren’t going to bend to Anthony and just say, ‘You just do what you do, we’ll let the corners figure themselves out.’ He had to do it and help them collectively.”
When asked what the Eagles are getting in Harris, the first thing mentioned was intelligence. Harris was known in Minnesota for being an extremely smart player and after going undrafted to start his career, he has always played with something to prove. Krammer said he expects Harris to be one of the smartest players in the entire Eagles locker room after learning from Smith and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer for years.
Harris began his career in Minnesota when Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon was there as an assistant defensive backs coach. That was the connection with Harris to Philly and Krammer thinks the two share the same mentality of earning respect. Krammer also remembers folks in Minnesota pegging Gannon as a fast-riser several years back.
Harris got a one-year deal with the Eagles, but Krammer said the Vikings were interested in bringing him back. Instead, Harris ended up with the Eagles on a one-year “prove-it” deal and Krammer thinks he’ll do just that.
“This really matters to him,” Krammer said. “I know that’s the case for a lot of NFL guys but for guys that get paid in free agency, I know that’s a big concern. Well, is this just going to be it. No, he’s out there to prove it and I think he’s going to do that again this year.”
In the podcast, we also talk to Krammer about Harris’s personality and what to expect from Gannon, who learned under Zimmer in Minnesota. Check out the full pod here:
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