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Pro Sports Wrap - Sports Personality of the Day:Kris Versteeg

9/2011 Player Profile: James Harrison

September 23rd 2011 15:17
I really don't want to address any of the off-the-field stuff in these profiles, because they are strictly about the game. James Harrison is one of those guys who says things that are filled with controversy. We all know that Harrison is one of the best five pass rushers in the game, but his ability on the field goes far beyond pressuring the quarterback and mauling tackles league-wide.

As far as 3-4 outside linebackers go, James Harrison is the best of the bunch. While it can be argued that DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews are better pass rushers, neither of those guys bring Harrison's run defense to the table. He's also pretty good in coverage for a guy who is mostly asked to rush the passer. For as prolific of a pass rusher as Clay Matthews is, he is very mediocre at stopping the run. Last season showcased his tremendous ability to get to the quarterback, but he was a huge disappointment in run defense.

Even though Troy Polamalu is a very important player, I don't think he's quite as good as Harrison. Troy struggles in coverage at times and isn't as talented as Harrison. Also, the arrow is pointing downwards for Polamalu, but Harrison obviously isn't that much better than him. The difference between them can be best measured by looking at Thomas Jones's rushing average. I honestly thought that Harrison was snubbed last year when Polamalu won the award. The voters overrated Polamalu's not-so-great 2010 season, while also neglecting to give the appropriate attention to Harrison's demolition of offensive tackles.

What really helps Harrison as a player- besides his versatility- is that he is a sure-handed tackler. I have rarely season him botch a tackle, and while everyone makes mistakes, Harrison is one of the few linebackers in the NFL who almost never messes up. He's not quite as good as the Spikes in this department, but it's yet another reason why Harrison is such a talent.

I value consistency over highlight-reel plays when evaluating players, and it says a lot about a linebacker when they fit both categories. Week in and week out, James Harrison puts forth a performance worthy of an MVP candidate. There are a few games- such as the game against the Dolphins last year- when he loses his matchup, but those games are few and far between. And of course, we all enjoy watching him deliver a big blow, a beautiful move to get by a lineman, or a sack on the QB.

There's no doubt that James Harrison makes his fair-share of dirty plays, but I am not really focused on that when evaluating a player. I put that in the behavior category, but I don't take the time to go in-depth on those in my player profiles. I obviously address them as they are important, but these posts are mainly about a player's skill-level.

To be honest, I don't really believe in "the clutch" like others do. I recognize that being able to make plays in crunch time is important, but the difference in a "clutch" play and a "normal" play is minuscule. However, those of you who do like clutch pass rushers, Harrison is one of the best of them. While Cliff Avril is probably a better 3rd and 4th down rusher, Harrison isn't that far behind if he is indeed number two.

So far in 2011, Harrison has continued is dominance of the unfortunate offensive tackles who are forced to match up against him. He absolutely demolished the Seattle Seahawks last week, and he is off to a similar Defensive Player of the Year- type season. The penalties won't go away, but that is a really minor complaint at this point.

Not only is James Harrison one of the best pass rushers in the game, but he is also the best linebacker in the NFL right now. He very well could be one of the best ten players in the entire league, and he is certainly an impact-player in every sense of the word.
Best LB in NFL
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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by nbageek

September 23rd 2011 22:50
Great in-depth profile. Harrison is one of a kind on the field. Very fierce player who plays with great aggression.

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