Injury to Harris would force major changes

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
5:27
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Harris

The Green Bay Packers would have to re-think their defensive philosophy if cornerback Al Harris misses the rest of the season, as multiple media outlets are now reporting.

The Packers' bump-and-run scheme is predicated on their cornerbacks being both physical on the line of scrimmage and skilled in man-to-man coverage. In Harris and Charles Woodson, the Packers have a pair of cornerbacks who perform those tasks as well as any in the NFL.

The Packers' faith in Harris and Woodson allows them to use their other nine players in varied ways. Safeties can look for big plays or play more aggressively against the run, while linebackers can devote themselves to covering the underneath routes.

But if Harris is forced to the sidelines, the Packers will be left with Woodson -- who is nursing a fractured toe -- and, probably, second-year player Tramon Williams. A lot of people like Williams' big-play ability, but his lack of experience makes it unlikely the Packers will trust him to the degree they trust Harris.

Harris turns 34 in December, and it's only fair to note the Packers assigned him to Dallas receiver Patrick Crayton -- and not Terrell Owens -- during Sunday night's 27-16 Cowboys victory. But on a relative scale, Harris allowed the Packers to run their defense in a unique way -- one they will now have to change.

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