Marcus Harris, Giants roster sleeper

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
10:00
AM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Marcus Harris hurt his leg in Wednesday night's New York Giants practice and stayed down on the sideline while trainers attended to him. But he got up and eventually went back in. Harris wore a wrap on the leg Thursday afternoon, but he was absolutely planning to practice again Thursday night, and he absolutely did.

"I couldn't stay down too long," Harris said before Thursday's practice. "There's a lot of receivers out already. I had to get up and get back on the field."

[+] EnlargeMarcus Harris
AP Photo/Seth WenigWith several Giants receivers nursing injuries, Marcus Harris has taken advantage of his opportunities to stand out.
Harris isn't kidding, and what he didn't say was that the fact that so many Giants wide receivers are missing practice time means more and more opportunity for someone like him to show what he can do. So far this training camp, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan, Rueben Randle and Trindon Holliday have all missed practice time due to injury. Mario Manningham is a limited participant every day, and his knee doesn't seem to be getting better. All of this adds up to the strong possibility of an open roster spot for Harris to pursue, and right now he's pursuing the heck out of it.

"He's stayed out there," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's a tough kid. He's had some nicks, but he's out there every day. He works hard at it, he can help on special teams. He caught the ball well (Wednesday), as you saw, and he's usually in the right spot."

That's what has stood out most about Harris -- his ability to make the right cut, create space from defenders and get open to catch the ball. The Giants' defense -- the secondary in particular -- has dominated the offense in most practices so far. But Harris, who spent last year on the Giants' practice squad, has managed to make his presence felt. He was the team's leading receiver in the preseason game Sunday night against Buffalo, and he'd like to continue to get such opportunities.

"You dream about things like this, and right now I feel like it's at my feet," Harris said. "I just need to keep going and going and get better."

Harris was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Murray State by the Detroit Lions in 2011. He spent that season on Detroit's practice squad, but the Lions released him the following summer. He went to camp with the Tennessee Titans in 2012 but didn't make their team, so he played in the UFL and the Arena League that season. The Giants signed him last summer and kept him on their practice squad all year, and at the age of 25 he may just be about to get his first real NFL shot.

"I think Marcus Harris, from the game he had and streaming into practice, he's really been taking advantage of his opportunity with a couple guys being down," Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said Wednesday. "He's really coming to the forefront here as a good player, and he's definitely one of the guys who's been standing out."

Cruz said he has a special place in his heart for the undrafted, small-school wide receivers, because he remembers fighting his way onto the Giants' roster with a big preseason in 2010, when he was an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts.

Harris, whose nickname "Soup" was given to him by high school teammate Jeremy Maclin, now of the Philadelphia Eagles, said Cruz is an inspiration to all of the young wide receivers trying to scrap their way onto the Giants' roster.

"It's a great thing to have a guy like that, because he knows exactly where we're coming from because he was us," Harris said. "It's just like a big ego boost, because he's a great friend, don't get me wrong, but he's also a great person to look up to. I respect him a lot."

With Beckham, Holliday and maybe Jernigan still on the shelf for Saturday night's preseason game against the Steelers, Harris could see a lot more chances to dazzle. And with a month to go before the final roster cuts are made, he has more than just a glimmer of hope.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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