How does Charles Harris fit into the Falcons defense?

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The Falcons took a flier on a former first-round pick last Friday, sending a seventh-rounder to Miami for defensive end Charles Harris.

Harris was originally drafted 22nd overall, just four spots ahead of were the Falcons traded up with the Seahawks to snag Takk McKinley out of UCLA. They were fond of the Mizzou product coming out of college, as were many scouts. However, Harris has provided minimal production since making the jump to the league.

In three years, the now 25-year-old pass rusher has only accumulated 3.5 sacks — two of which came in his rookie season. But it’s worth noting that sacks often do not tell the whole story. Harris did have a respectable 31 pressures in 2017. And although that number dropped down to 10 last season, he was playing out of position at linebacker rather than his natural defensive end spot. In the Falcons scheme, Harris will be able to make much more of his strengths as a pure pass rusher, and Dan Quinn is hoping he can provide the magic touch, unlocking his full potential.

Coming out of the draft, the Falcons didn’t select a single pass rusher, which was slightly discouraging considering the lack of production they’ve had in the sack department for years. So when looking at the roster, another addition on the edge was expected before the start of the season. With several quality pass rushers still available in free agency, the hope from many was that they would target a player like Michael Bennett, Vinny Curry, or possibly even Everson Griffen once they received the money from Desmond Trufant’s cut on June 2nd. However, there’s no guarantee any of those options would have still been available, and Harris cost next to nothing to acquire. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t count out any of the aforementioned free agents if they are still on the market come June 2nd.

As things stand, Harris will slot in as a rotational pass rusher behind Takk McKinley and Dante Fowler Jr. He will be competing with the likes of Steven Means, John Cominsky, and Allen Bailey for snaps. However, the latter two will also be spending time on the interior defensive line. While the Falcons messed around in a 3-4 at times last year, Quinn’s bread and butter is a traditional four-man front. I expect that to be where Harris is utilized the most, attempting to rush the passer off the edge as he did in college. Hopefully, a change in scenery along with a switch to his more natural position, will allow Harris to become a much more productive player at this level.

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