COMMENTARY | Much was made of the Cincinnati Bengals bringing on former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison this offseason, but the hype for Harrison in stripes is starting to reach an unreasonable level.
Harrison is currently penciled in as the starter at strong-side linebacker, but figures to be used in a versatile manner by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
While Harrison brings a new kind of attitude to the Bengals defense that it has arguably been lacking in recent years, his impact on the field is starting to become overrated.
If you had to absolutely pick the most overrated player in Cincinnati, you could make a serious case for Harrison.
Age and Health
James Harrison is already 35 years old. There's a notion in the NFL among fans and media alike that the ripe age of 30 is usually when a decline begins. That's particularly the case with running backs, but it has its merits with linebackers as well.
Harrison may tout financial numbers he spends on his body each year, but the real numbers to concern yourself with happen to be games played. The explosive linebacker has not played a full 16-game season since 2010.
Granted some of those absences are thanks to suspensions, that stubbornness is another reason Harrison is becoming overrated. He's liable to be suspended at any point because he is already in commissioner Roger Goodell's dog house.
Role and Impact
As noted earlier, Harrison is penciled in on the strong side, a position not extremely popular in Cincinnati. Typically the strong-side backer in Mike Zimmer's defense comes off the field in passing situations for an additional defensive back.
While much has been said about Harrison's versatility and the fact he was lining up at different positions such as middle linebacker to rush the passer, he may very well be used more than anything to stuff the run at this point.
Harrison has failed to reach double-digit sack totals since he recorded 10.5 in 2010. Last season Manny Lawson manned the strong side and was unimpressive to say the least; hence why the team was fine letting him sign with Buffalo this offseason.
It's hard to tell if Harrison will have a bigger impact than Lawson at this point. The possibility is good, but he is in an unfamiliar defense past his prime. His signing could represent more bark than bite.
Bargain Bin Free Agent
Last but not least, there's a reason Harrison was shunned by his former team and a variety of others on the free-agent market.
Mostly because of the reasons listed above.
Cincinnati was able to lock up Harrison for a bargain-bin price on a two-year contract. There's a reason for that.
Then again, Zimmer has shown an uncanny ability time and again to take players off the scrap heap and mold a top defensive unit.
Don't doubt Zimmer's ability here with Harrison. He could be but a small piece in a very cohesive, effective unit. That's a new role for Harrison, but one he and fans are going to have to adapt to in 2013.
Times have changed. Harrison is not the game-changer he used to be at this point in his career, hence his signing and impact with the Bengals beginning to become a tad overrated.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more. He is the co-host of a Cincinnati Bengals podcast, @BengalsCentral
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Bengals