Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Beckham sits, Harris continues to excel
By Kieran Darcy
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The big topic of conversation at Giants camp Tuesday was the absence of first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., who is back on the sideline and was ruled out for Friday's game against the Jets.
That's bad news for the Giants, but good news for the young wide receivers battling to make the 53-man roster.
Corey Washington, Marcus Harris and Julian Talley all got some first-team reps Tuesday. Washington has received the most attention -- and deservedly so, thanks to his three game-winning touchdown catches in the first three games of the preseason. But Harris has also stood out.
He led the Giants with four receptions (for 49 yards) in the Hall of Fame game against the Bills, and again with four receptions (for 41 yards) last Saturday against the Colts.
Marcus Harris has a pair of four-reception games this preseason.
"I think I've had a pretty strong camp, made plays whenever the ball came my way," Harris said Tuesday. "Played pretty good in the games, but always room for improvement."
Harris' nickname is "Soup," short for "Superstar," originally given to him by Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, a former teammate at Kirkwood High School near St. Louis.
But Harris went undrafted in 2011 after four years at Murray State, leaving as the school's all-time leading receiver. The Lions signed him as a free agent, cut him at the end of training camp and then brought him back to their practice squad in late November.
Detroit waived him the following July. He was picked up by Tennessee a week later, but cut again at the end of training camp. Harris ended up playing for Omaha in the UFL and the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League, with whom he racked up 94 catches and 19 touchdowns.
The Giants signed Harris last August and stashed him on their practice squad for the bulk of the 2013 season. He's yet to play in a real NFL game, but at age 25, he may be on the verge of a breakthrough. It's been a long road, but Harris doesn't view that as a negative.
"It's not tough at all. Especially when you have confidence in your talent," Harris said. "I just keep working every day -- no matter if I bounced around, even if it was Arena [football], I always made plays. It just depends on if the coaches want you. Hopefully I'll stick around this year."
The Giants broke camp last year with only five wide receivers on the 53-man roster, but coach Tom Coughlin indicated Tuesday that he would consider keeping six wideouts this year.
"If they're evaluated as being solid people that can make the club, then perhaps you have to make an adjustment somewhere else," Coughlin said. "Are we against keeping six? No. That's been done before."
Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are the three locks to make the team. Jerrel Jernigan has not been impressive this summer, but will probably be retained based on his strong showing late last season. That leaves only one, or maybe two, spots for Harris, Washington and the five other wide receivers currently practicing with Big Blue -- a group that also includes former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham and return specialist Trindon Holliday.
Every practice counts and Harris made another impressive play Tuesday, out-leaping reserve cornerback Ross Weaver (both are listed at 6-foot-1) to reel in a pass from backup quarterback Ryan Nassib in the back corner of the end zone.
Harris is also being utilized in a variety of special-teams roles.
"They said the more you can do, so they're just trying to see if I can do every position on the field," Harris said. "This week I'm playing fullback on punt so it's a new position, but I'm comfortable with it because I practiced it last year on practice squad."
No. 13 won't be out there on Friday night against the Jets, but No. 18 is certainly worth watching.