CLEVELAND — Dwayne Harris was too injured to play his typical role for the Giants, but he was able to find another way to contribute. Maybe even a better way.
Usually used as a kickoff and punt returner, he performed neither of those duties in Sunday’s 27-13 win over the Browns. Instead, he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter for the game’s first points on one of his rare offensive opportunities this season.
“One target, one catch, one touchdown,” Harris said of his cumulative stats as a receiver this season. “Sounds nice to me.”
Harris wasn’t even on the field to catch passes. He was there to be used to disguise the formation and make the Browns think there was a running play coming.
The Giants usually use him as one of their better blocking receivers and line him up tight to the formation. That’s where he was on the play after the Giants recovered a Browns fumble, but instead of a run, Eli Manning hit Roger Lewis Jr. for 18 yards.
“We are bringing him in for special situations,” Manning said of Harris. “We brought him in for the bootleg and we try to sell the run when he gets in there.”
Harris stayed in the game for the next play, one that Manning changed at the line of scrimmage.
“[Manning] told me to run a fly,” Harris said. “I figured it would come to me. If not, I would have been the decoy again.”
It did come to him, and he jumped up in the end zone to catch the fade.
Harris was more of an offensive weapon for the Giants last year, when their receiving group was ravaged by injuries. This year he’s barely played. Coming into Sunday’s game, Harris had played only 32 offensive snaps all season and had not been targeted on any passing plays.
“He’s been part of the rotation,” Ben McAdoo insisted.
That’s open for debate. What isn’t is the resilience that Harris shows when he plays through injuries.
“That guy, he’s one of the toughest on the team and in the league, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my cousin,” Giants linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. “He’s one of the toughest players I’ve played with. Everything on his body I think he has something going on, and every week he continues to fight.”
Harris injured a wrist in last week’s game and also is dealing with injuries to his ribs, shoulder and toe.
“You name it, I’ve got it banged up,” he said.
While Harris emerged as an offensive contributor, his special-teams roles initially fell to Bobby Rainey. After Rainey was flagged for an illegal fair catch signal and then muffed a punt, though, the Giants switched to Odell Beckham Jr. as their punt returner.
Despite some questionable judgments by Harris in recent weeks, McAdoo insisted that his change in roles was not a special-teams demotion. Harris said he hopes to return to those returning jobs when he’s a little more healed up.
“I’ll definitely be back at return,” Harris said. “It’s just that every time I go on the field [on special teams], I’m either hitting somebody or getting hit.”
Catching touchdown passes, it turns out, is far less exhausting.