Charles Harris has been a disappointment since the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the first round out of Missouri in 2017
DAVIE — Now that the dust has settled in the Dolphins locker room in terms of roster moves ahead of Sunday’s season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, returning players like Charles Harris have a clearer vision as to what is expected out of them from new head coach Brian Flores and his staff.
In Harris’ case, that appears to be more position flexibility.
The third-year defensive end out of Missouri, who was Miami’s first-round draft pick (22nd overall) in 2017, is actually listed as a starting outside linebacker on this week’s depth chart. With the hybrid scheme being run by Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, the switch allows Harris to rush the passer both from his traditional, hand-in-the-dirt pre-snap setup and from the standing up position with the linebackers.
"It’s treating me well," said Harris, who has three career sacks coming into this season. "Whatever they want me to do, I’m trying to get that job done, trying to be there for my teammates and serve them the best way I can. I like it all, I definitely do. I think the head coach, the DC (defensive coordinator) and the d-line coach (Marion Hobby), I think they’re all geniuses at the game and they’re trying to put everybody in the right position."
To the naysayers, Harris has yet to live up to his potential as a high draft pick, having started just three games in two years. Those criticisms have not deterred him, and a solid training camp and preseason have only bolstered his confidence and that of his coaches and teammates.
Hobby is growing fond of Harris and is a believer in his abilities, and now linebackers coach Rob Leonard is getting a taste of what can be accomplished in this defense by the 6-foot-3, 252-pound pass rushing specialist.
"I like Charles because Charles is a very conscientious player," Hobby said. "He wants to know. He has no problem asking if he doesn’t understand. He’s talking more and that’s great. The guys have natural respect for him because of who he is. I think he’s very consistent on who he is."
That consistency will be put to the test against the Ravens and their elusive quarterback, Lamar Jackson, at Hard Rock Stadium. Jackson, a former Boynton Beach standout, is equally as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm and helped lead Baltimore to a playoff berth as a rookie last season.
Harris and his teammates have watched lots of film of Jackson over the last couple weeks and he is fully aware of the challenge that awaits him.
"I think people that play the game or don’t play the game, you can just watch him," he said. "We all see we’re going to try to contain him and try keeping him in the box – that’s probably the hardest thing. (We have to) make sure we have good rush lanes and things like that. That’s probably the biggest challenge."
At least Harris got to be reunited with one of his college teammates as a result of the recent roster shuffle in backup center Evan Boehm, who was acquired in a trade last week from the Indianapolis Colts. They’ve already gone up against each other in practice and Harris joked that he had to go back into the archives to find what moves worked best against Boehm.
"It’s always motivating to see somebody from back in the day and also seeing how well they have progressed and to see how things have changed for them," said Harris, who was a two-year starter at Missouri and finished with 18 sacks. "So, it’s always good seeing your old buddies."
The laughs, smiles, and jokes will have to go on the backburner for Harris and Boehm, as the Ravens will provide the first of many tests.