COMMENTARY | Damon Harrison, the not-so-tiny nose tackle whose teammates call him 'Big Snacks,' is an under-the-radar player who could make a major difference for the New York Jets in the coming season. Room on the depth chart has been cleared for this powerful player to earn playing time and make an impact for the first time in his pro career.
Why Big Snacks?
Why do they call the big man Big Snacks? According to Ricky Doyle of MaineNewsSimply.com, Harrison earned his nickname shortly after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jets last year. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar apparently would leave Rice Krispie Treats on his desk to motivate Harrison to lose weight and improve his speed.
Harrison looked solid in the 2012 preseason but ultimately did not see a whole lot of playing time during the regular season. He and his nickname, however, stuck around throughout the season as he held his roster spot. Though he is not yet on the national radar, he is becoming popular in some Jets' fan circles.
Defensive nose tackle is a physically demanding position. The nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive set generally lines up against the offensive center and faces an extremely high number of double teams. Massive size to handle offensive centers is required as well as the athleticism to deal with double teams and to close line gaps more quickly than running backs can reach them.
Is 2013 His Year?
Rex Ryan's defense is very much a hybrid defense now, and he is not as reliant on 3-4 formations as he has been in the past. Especially with the move of Quinton Coples to rush linebacker, there should be increased usage of plays with four defenders playing with their hands on the ground.
Nonetheless, 3-4 sets are sure to be part of the scheme, and the Jets need a solid nose tackle. Sione Pouha, who used to be one of the best in the business, was released as a salary cap casualty. Then Mike DeVito was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. DeVito was a mix between a defensive end and a defensive tackle, but Ryan often made use of his ability to play nose tackle.
The result is that a top-heavy depth chart at nose tackle is suddenly wide open. Certainly Kenrick Ellis and Antonio Garay are in the mix. However, with both of them being unproven, there is nothing to stop Harrison if he can demonstrate his own abilities on the practice field.
Will Noble of OneJetAtATime.com sees possibilities for Big Snacks. Noble argued, "Let me note how well Big Snacks did in the first day of open-to-the-media OTAs... Harrison will make [an] excellent substitute... Hungry is the definition of Damon Harrison in every sense."
Harrison is not a name that will be heard too much just yet in the national media. He is more of a local name and is still a developing player. He plays an unsung role and still needs to prove that he can help the team win. Hopefully for Big Snacks his career path will continue to head upward and not downward.
As for Jets fans, now is the chance to hop on the Big Snacks bandwagon before the rest of the country catches on.
Adam Waksman is a Yahoo! contributor in sports. He also covers the New York Jets for Bleacher Report, where he is a Featured Columnist and award-winning blogger.
You can follow Adam on Twitter.
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