The Giants have the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Month, the current NFC Defensive Player of the Week and a top candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
None of them, though, are as important to the Giants’ resurgent defense as Damon Harrison.
“He has been such a key component to the way this thing has kind of jelled together,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said on Thursday. “I’m not talking about when he is out on the field as much as when he is off the field, when he is on the sideline, when he is in the locker room. I watch him all the time. He has been the glue. He has been the guy that can get the guys to refocus. You need somebody in the group that will do that, and he has been that guy.”
Spagnuolo said he didn’t necessarily know he would get that kind of player when the Giants signed the former Jet as a free agent.
“I didn’t know him as a person,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s the one thing about free agency, I have always said; unless you have somebody who has worked with the person you are bringing in the building, you really don’t know. In this case, there was a lot of research done and we had an idea of the type of person he was, but really just saw most of what was on film and hoped on the best with the other things. And he has been great.”
That Harrison has emerged in that role so quickly, as a first-year Giant, makes it even more astounding.
“I knew it would come around. I didn’t think it would be so soon,” Harrison said. “Spags and I had a conversation, and he let me know what was expected of me from day one.”
On the field, he’s been as good as advertised, too. He dominates the line of scrimmage against running backs and even has been able to get in the backfield a bit for some quarterback hits. He had 1 1⁄2 career sacks in four years with the Jets and has matched that in 11 games with the Giants. He also has 69 total tackles, a very high number for an interior lineman.
“When he came here, what you saw on film was a guy that could control the middle of the defense, and he has been doing that,” Spagnuolo said. “I think he stepped up his game a little bit in that regard. He used to talk about not having big stats, and now he has a few here and there. He would like to get a sack or two more, you know how those big guys are. But no, he is unselfish, he is a team player, he is a warrior and he is great to have.”
As for being the “glue” and the most important piece of the defense’s move from being ranked 32nd a year ago to being 16th at this point in the season (and fifth against the run, by the way), Harrison wasn’t having any of it.
“It’s a lie,” he said, pointing to the more statistically dominant play of Jason Pierre-Paul and Landon Collins and the impact of rookie Andrew Adams and captain Jonathan Casillas.
How about co-MVP of the defense, then?
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t want it. I couldn’t accept that kind of award.”
He might not have a choice.