Top Saints to watch at training camp: No. 6, Erik Harris
By John Hendrix
New Orleans Saints rookies reported to The Greenbrier on Wednesday, which only means that the football drought is almost over. One of the many new players, Erik Harris, looks to follow the footsteps of a former teammate.
The New Orleans Saints have combed through Canada over the past decade to find some real gems. Players like Tom Johnson, Akiem Hicks, and most recently Delvin Breaux are just some of the best successes the team has found from our neighbors to the north. Not everyone has worked out though, as Marcus Ball and Derrius Brooks had short-lived time with the black and gold.
Erik Harris and David Onyemata are two of Canada’s best that hope to be the next big hits for the New Orleans Saints. However for Harris, the familiarity with Delvin Breaux could help tremendously for the safety prospect.
The Canadian Football League, or CFL, is definitely similar but at the same time very different from the NFL. Watching a game, you’ll instantly notice just how much pre-snap motion is used. Fields are longer and wider, end zones are deeper, and goal posts are in front of the end zone. That never seemed to bother Harris. With the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Harris was a standout player. In three seasons, he totaled 79 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, a touchdown, four forced fumbles, while adding 27 special teams tackles in the process.
The other interesting side of Harris is the fact he was listed as a defensive back, but played more as a linebacker. His safety coverage skills were developed while playing four years of Division II football for the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans.
In a recent column by ESPN’s Mike Triplett, Harris’ path was highlighted by his ex-CFL roommate Delvin Breaux helping him get his shot with the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Sean Payton also had positive things to say about the first-year player.
"“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We had success with Breaux, and Delvin felt really strongly about the player. … He (runs) well and has good instincts. He’s receiving work at the free, he can play the strong, he’s versatile. That’s been a good add for us.”"
Harris has his work cut out for him making the team at safety with a host of talent before him. Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd return to take the starting roles, veteran Roman Harper reunited with the Saints and is expected to make the final roster, and second-round pick Vonn Bell has much buzz circling him for what he brings to the table.
The good news is that the Saints did keep five safeties on the roster for the duration of the 2015 season, which obviously bodes well for Erik Harris. Also, the team is going to use more three-safety sets this season. Harris will need to distance himself on special teams, and ultimately fend off legitimate competition from Ole Miss’ Trae Elston and returning safety Alden Darby.
No matter how you do slice it, there’s a lot to love about what the safety group can bring in 2016 for Dennis Allen.
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