Chicago Sun-Times

Bears believe careful use of Tommie Harris will pay off

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I examined the playing time for defensive tackle Tommie Harris in a story in today's edition.

The Bears have been careful using him in 2009, going all the way back to minicamp in March when Harris was given the last day of the three-day session off. It hasn't impacted his time on the field when it counts, though. Harris is actually playing more (or a greater percentage of the time) through two games than he did in 2008.

2009 1st two games--80 of 113 snaps, 70.8 percent

2008 1st two games--82 of 121 snaps, 67.8 percent

Thus far, it has worked out just like coach Lovie Smith said he was planning in the rotation. The Bears want to ensure that Harris is fresh for important situations--passing downs and crunch time in the second half. On Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, 27 of Harris' 44 snaps came in the second half.

"You start from there and you work from there,'' Smith said of the numbers so far. "All of our defensive linemen that we dress, we feel comfortable playing them. Situations will warrant maybe Tommie playing a little bit more. You kind of see how the game goes but we don't want him to play 100 percent of the time like we don't want any of our defensive linemen to play 100 percent of the time if we can get away from it.

"We haven't played the type of defense we want to play. Tommie is a part of that. We haven't gotten enough takeaways. Our third downs were too high last week. There are some things we have to correct but they are working hard. There is no reason not to believe we will improve and Tommie will lead the way.''

Playing time with Harris has always been worth noting. For starters, he's at the signature position in the Tampa Two scheme, but Smith has always preached the use of a healthy and well-oiled rotation. Second, Harris' contract has clauses in it that are tied directly to playing time. Harris was on the field for only 56.08 percent of the time last season (623 of 1,111 snaps). That was tops among the tackles on the roster, but the figure was reduced because he missed one game with an injury and was suspended for a second game. A rough estimate is Harris would have been on the field for 64 percent of the snaps last if you project him over 16 games, so it's easy to see he's being used a little more than that right now.

There is a de-escalating roster bonus in 2012, the final year of his contract. The de-escalator has a maximum value of $8 million and a minimum value of $2 million. It dropped to $6.5 million after last season, and Harris has to participate in 74 percent of the team's defensive snaps and reach the Pro Bowl each season for it not to fall $1.5 million each year. Even if Harris is dominant and is named an all-star again, hitting the play-time trigger might be difficult. He's reached 74 percent just once in his career.

If he can play at a consistently high level again, and allay fears that his left knee will not dog him, he will be paid again. Harris is 26 and will hit free agency when he is 29. If he plays well, he won't have to worry about a few million bucks tied up in a very difficult to reach de-escalating roster bonus. Smith seems to think he is rounding into form. Rod Marinelli was very upbeat when asked about Harris, and said he sees him improving each week. That will be a good thing for a defense ranked fifth in the league at this early juncture.

*** Practice starts earlier today. I will see if I can get a better handle on the Alex Brown situation, but Smith still seemed confident he will play at Seattle even if he does not practice today. Stay tuned.

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21 Comments

Brad,

Contract and Harris aside, can you give us a good break down of how our current tackles perform at the 3 technique spot specifically?

I know Adams is a good space grabber at the Nose, and they had Harrison beef up to rotate at Nose too...But how do Toeaina and Harrison look when they come in for Harris?

How out muscled is Idonije getting since he shed all that weight to move outside, only to be put back inside?

How, in your opinion, does the new Bears formation on passing downs work? I saw something on Anderson being used as an interior pass rusher on 3rd and long. Any success, or is he getting beat up on the inside?

I know the line has done some good things so far this year, so maybe we could look at the interior ASIDE from Harris and evaluate what is and isn't working? Not that you don't have enough else to do.

Brendan

Obviously keeping Harris healthy has to be a priority. I was glad to read Manelli's comments about him getting better and better and working hard to improve. Everyone thought he had the potential to be a consistent pro-bowler, so let's hope that potential is realized and surpassed.

Tommie Harris has all of the physical tools (unless he is still somewhat injured with the knee) to be the dominant leader of the defense and take the role of defensive leader since Urlacher has been put out for the year.

Harris seems to not be at a high motor level during games, otherwise he would be in on more plays and making big plays more often. A true leader is the guy who has the physical skills but also has the leadership desire to be dominant the entire game.

I would love to see Harris earn back this title as the leader of the defense but it takes 4 full quarters of huge effort to make that happen and I just don't know if he has that in him game in and game out.

Briggs, Tillman or Brown may be the players defensive leader this year but Harris, not yet.

Lets see!!

I understand the point of the article, and it was nice to see Tommie make that play in the second half, but from what I see he is still playing a little high and engaging too much, his game is about penitration, shooting gaps. A lot of fans are down on him, but he is the guy everthing works off of, and he usually has two people blocking him most of the game. The Williams boys get a lot of credit for stopping the run, because you can't move them, Harris stops the run by penitrating into the backfield and shooting gaps before pulling guards can get started. Stop focusing so much on the money and start looking at his importance to the scheme to really measure up the job he is doing. Yes he can play better, but he has started to get healther and is coming on.

I expect to see "Big Paw" Alex in the line-up this week, and expect him to bat down a swing pass or even block another kick soon, he's a solid player and has defintely made the BEARS look good for picking him in the 4th round, when he should have been late 1st early 2nd round pick.....
My pick is Bears 24 Seahawks 10
Go BEARS

Chicago's defense has looked pretty good this year, 5th in the league isn't to shabby. But Tommie Harris getting back to form would be nice. He did end the game with a nice tackle for loss vs Pittsburgh. Maybe, or should I say, Hopefully he was just taking it easy on the knee early, being a little hesitant, kind of feeling it out, and now that he's comfortable with it, he'll get back to form. We'll find out in the coming weeks here I guess?

The importance of the position Harris plays goes without saying in Chicago's scheme. This is why I never liked the idea of Harris being the only pure three technique on the roster, yeah Chicago has Idonije, but he's more of an end than a tackle. Ever hear the old saying "don't put all your egg's in one basket," thats basically what Chicago is doing with Harris being the only under tackle on the roster. If Harris were to go down...ouch! Thats a lot of broken eggs to clean up. This is why I liked the drafting of Jarron Gilbert in the 3rd round last april. Bears GM Jerry Angelo said he sees Gilbert as an under tackle first. I hope so, new blood is needed at the position, especially if Harris never gets back to form.

I realize a lot of fans like Gilbert as an end better. But when Gilbert was moved inside in college, he really came on. As a senior at San Jose st, Gilbert had 52 tckls, 9 1/2 sacks, and lead the nation with 22 tackles for loss from his defensive tackle position. I think he would be better inside, and inside is where Chicago needs the most help right now, again, especially if Harris never regains form. Scouts liked Gilbert inside because of his long arms, he could be a mismatch vs shorter armed guards, also, Gilbert has great quickness off the snap. The sad thing is, Gilbert probably isn't ready to contribute this year. Hopefully Harris will get back to form, and I see above the coaches say he's getting better the more he plays, we'll see GO BEARS!!

I feel Harris knee is bothering him more than we know. Coudl be bone on bone as far as we know. But I do agree that if we use him sparingly he will play better and get those kind of plays. I liked Briggs play Sun.! He was blitzing and covering pretty good.
Not sure the guys are ready to follow HH yet. Time will tell on that.

I think this line of thinking goes beyond Harris. I think they should use ALL the players carefully. The NFL season, more and more, is not about who starts. It's about who finishes. And now the Commish is talking about adding more games?

It looks to me like successful franchises are the ones who play their whole roster. This keeps some tread on the tires of the starters, while giving the second teamers a chance to develop.

There may be some exceptions. It's hard to rotate quarterbacks, and offensive lines are often thought of as a unit. Still, a smart NFL coach might still look for ways to spread the reps at those positions. At least in practice. I'm still steaming about, (I think it was Detroit), last year when Grossman said he had zero reps with the ones in practice that week. Kevin, talk about broken eggs! Zero practice reps for the backup.

I digress. The point is that, even if Harris was completely healthy, the Bears would be smart to spread some of the reps around the rest of the D-line. They need to do that with as many positions as they can.

Whatever the problem is, he is not healthy. I replayed the steelers game (tevo) several times. Harris has no push and no penetration. He was involved in tackles yes, but 5-6 yards down field. This is the downfall of Lovie. He needs to do something with the 3 spot. Harris is easily 75% or less right now. Put someone in there who is healthy and can at least make something happen.. What about Toenia? Lovie cannot admit that his prized pupil is not healthy and he needs to sit him down. Put him on the PUP and let him heal. Plus Lovie and his stupid games regarding injury info. We all know Tommie is not healthy. Yet Lovie continues to play him alot and he is not doing anything. This is why this team will not evolve. We have a coach that to this day, still cannot make the decisions that need to be made..

Harris looks bad, I don't care what lie Rod or Halas hall is spitting out this week. Harris has not seen doubles, he has been getting blown off the line by rookie guards or bad guards. Rod is pathetic he is jumping for joy because Harris made 1 tackle in two games while taking 70 percent of the snaps. I guess Harris was resting during the loss in GB, cause games don't matter and we just rest our players. I know how about next we say we are saving him for the playoffs. Then we can say we are saving him for next year.

You have to be an idiot not to have seen how bad Harris looks.

Harris will be lining up against Max Unger a rookie and will also be playing against backup Center Vallos and RT Willis this week. He should have a field day against a Rookie, a back up center and a average at best RT. Old Harris would rip these guys and be in the backfield all day. The bears are going to stunt and twist all day, sense Harris is only being rested and is fine and keeps getting better and better than he should have a field day.

PIT who is not a good running team anymore had all there good runs last week when they ran right at Harris. He is the the reason the Bears are blitzing like crazy again. He is not getting it done. 1 Tackle in 2 games. He hasn't even lined up against a decent guard yet. You know what Harris said? He said he was going to Break records this year. Please tell me what record is he on pace to break? The only way Harris sees the backfield this week is if he jumps the count.

Randy how can you say his knee is bothering him more than we know?

Me and Mike have been talking about his knee sense last year. I myself accidently saw Harris this off season and posted here what I saw. I said he was walking with a limp and did not look healthy. Yet everyone doubted, then I started asking if he had surgery and got a big fat no he did not. Then boom the Bears admit he had surgery. Are you kidding me? Most of us knew his knee was bothering him, it's been bothering him for years. Me and Mike both said that unless Rod plans to perform surgery on the guy he will still be bad. Guess what? He is still abd and has no real backup.

By the way Brad taking fewer snaps but having a higher percentage of snaps does not mean he has been on the field more. If the Bears are resting Harris as they claim, then 70 percent of the snaps seems pretty high. They are not resting him, he sucks but they don't have anyone else. Once again they relied on a player with injury issues.

uumm, uuhh
I wasn't including you or Mike when I said that, I took that as a given. Everybody else knew that.
(I didn't think you meant bone on bone though cause I did)

But Harris is what he is, and thats the point - we need to use him sparingly and we can have those plays. We have no one else that can even give those plays once a game.

Creighton man, please don't drag me into this anymore. I know I've been tough on Marinelli and Harris but I have seen the light.

Didn't you see that article by Larry Mayer on the Bears site? The Bears have had 6 sacks in two games, 7th in the league, and the only logical explanation is Marinelli's presence. I know you might object and bring up the fact that the linemen aren't responsible for all 6 sacks, or that we've faced horribly, bad lines, but dude, you're being negative and real Bears fans don't like to hear that even if it is true.

Here's what did happen: In the Green Bay game, Marinelli used his ice breath to freeze the right tackle; making way for Ogunleye's "monster" game. Then against Pittsburgh, he used his psychic powers to disable the left side of the Steelers line; making way for Brown's "monster" game.

As for Harris, Marinelli obviously used his healing powers on Tommie's knee and that's why we're seeing his improved production (1 tak in 2 games). Also Anthony Adams claims he has noticed a change in Harris and that he's "getting in tune to his weakness." That's good enough for me. Now get with the program Creighton and stop asking questions. From now on I want to see you end your posts with a "Go Bears!!" like a drooling zombie who has no understanding of football whatsoever.

By the by, I thought you'd get a little kick out of this -->

(http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kevin-bumstead/10/16/486)

Who knew?

Actually our D is ranked No. 6 and our O is ranked No. 20, That would be the D that Harris plays on. Early yes, but still we are No. 6. Pretty good I would say. Don't throw Harris away just yet, as I coulda swore I saw some doubles in the Steelers game. Musta not I guess.
Go Bears
Did anyone else make the play that Harris did? Anyone? Even with his bad knee he scares the other O.
No one thinks Harris is gonna be alright, but who would you replace him with? It is what it is.
Go Bears
Would you rather we were No. 20 D???
No. 6 D early, - I'll take that.
Go Bears
Especially knowing our O will continue to improve. Jeez you woulda thought the Steelers beat us?
Go Bears
The SB Champions and we beat them.
Go Bears
Our D played pretty da.. good too. HH/Harris were both part of that, they didn't hurt us too awful much I guess, neither did Rod or any of the D for that matter. Duh, last I saw our O was No. 20 and our D was No. 6 If I was Rod and Lovie I would just quit right now! No. 6, how putrid is that? Go Bears
BTW I believe I wrote that I thought we would beat the Steelers? Look that up on the `get off the D bandwagon cause I don't like the color of that wagon.'
Go Bears

Actually our D is ranked number 7 in sacks. Perhaps a steady diet of brains will help you in your reading comprehension.

Also, I acknowledged the D is looking better than in years past (check the archives) however I attributed it to Lovie's playcalling, specifically the frequent use of stunts and blitzes, and not by the mere presence of a former head coach standing on the sidelines. It's nice if Harris impressed you with his one tackle, but if the Bears are blitzing on every down, then it means that Harris is not doing his job in the Cover-2. That's all Creighton and I have been pointing out.

Harris is done. Put a fork in him. What a waste of money

I happen to be a really close friend of TJ. I have been in Chicago over the past two seasons and to his credit I have seen the hard work he has put into making sure he could be on the field with his teammates and entertain all of you. I understand the mindset of fans, however you should know playing DT in the NFL isn't easy, not even for T. .. I know as a fan you could care less about him as a person and that's fine, however you should know he has put in the blood sweat and tears to be back on the field this season. I understand he set the bar extremely high for himself so you all expect him to be at that level at all times, just know that T will be back to pro bowl form. Encouragement goes a lot further than criticism. And honestly he is such a great person he won't mind you all jumping back on his bandwagon in fact he will be the first to welcome you guys back.. Oh before I go.. T doesn't play this game for the money, if you all knew him you would be shocked to see how humble he really is.. Go T. Go Bears!

As long as they keep him fresh healthy and inj free we have guys to fill in a play or two good deal if hes fresh in a playoff game watch out!!!

DA,
All of these guys love the game in some form or another, or they wouldn't put themselves through the daily, weekly, and yearly hell they put themselves through, knowing full well it could shorten their life, or leave them as a crippled senior citizen when it is all said and done. But it is a lot easier to say you don't do it for the money when you are making an a@@load of it....

We have all seen the interviews, we have all heard the testimonials about how devout he is in his faith, and how thoughtful and kind he is as a person, and you are correct in that it means zilch to us as far as performance on the field is concerned. The only two explosive things I have seen from Tommie so far this season are the 1 tackle in the PIT game, which was a very good play, and then him jumping into the air to celebrate someone else's sack. He is being paid like a superstar at his position, and right now, I would take Tank Johnson over him at the under tackle position. We would all love for him to get back to the form he displayed in 2005-2006, but it just isn't going to happen. If it does, we will all celebrate, but unless they perfect full knee transplants for professional athletes, it isn't likely...

How nice a guy he is, and what a good person he is cannot be discounted from Monday through Saturday, and for life after football. People like Tommie are well-liked for a reason. Charisma like what he possesses is rare, and will serve him well for life after football. But when he puts on that helmet with the Orange C on it, he has a responsibility to give it everything he has, and if he can't get it done, he needs to give it up. Whether he does it for the money or not, he cashes his game checks, and is making way too much for 1 tackle in 2 games, especially considering how much of the time he has been in the game. 70% of the snaps, 1 play.....He is getting one hell of a deal...

On another note, have we not heard Tommie question whether he really wanted to play the game at two different times in his career? Once after his rookie season, and then again before last season? If he came to the conclusion that this is what he loves, then he needs to work harder. Listening to Anthony Adams' comments over the last week, saying that Tommie now knows what to do to take care of his body makes it sound like he wasn't doing everything he could to be healthy and perform at his peak. Tommie had the potential to be the best 3 technique in the league, and give Warren Sapp a run to be the best ever. That is not even a remote possibility any more.

I hope he does get back to form. I want to see a dominant 3 tech tackle on this team. He should be able to rack up 7-8 sacks, 50 tackles, and consistent pressures and QB hits in this defense. It is designed for the 3 technique and the weak side linebacker to be the playmakers. At his current pace, it will take him more than 3 years to do that. Ogunleye and Brown have had good games so far, and Harris is the most talented player of the three of them. He needs to show his teammates that not only can he work hard in practice (for the 6 practices he has participated in since training camp started), the weight room, and in film study, but like the rest of them, he can translate that into results on the field. Then he will start getting some credibility back as a premier DT.

For your reading comprehension (look at the big brain on Randy)
5 in YPG
12 in Rush
7 in Sacks
10 in Scoring
8 in pass yds
32 Teams and we are 5th? and 8? And our O hasn't even started to play yet? Some people thought we would be 0-2 now.
TH in my opinion will never be the player he was.
I would keep Harris in the lineup for now, why rock the boat when it's working?
Goon had a good game against a rook! Joe and he is 100% healthy and he is the one with the holes big enough for a semi to drive through, and you question Harris motivation?
I do not give a flying rats ar$ how nice/bad a person is, you all know I wanted Plax, so there goes that theory.
Geez I say again, we beat the Steelers and all you can do is gripe about a player that going in was not 100% and toot your own horn before the Fat Lady Sangs.
She has not sang yet for Harris as much as you want her too, and no amount of mashed potatoes on a very long stick will make her sang just yet!
Your not gonna get more than this from Harris (maybe) but why go with less than this?

Steelers Site said this:
Best tackle: Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris stopped the Steelers' Mewelde Moore in the backfield for a 2-yard loss in the fourth quarter. (yes, fourth quarter final drive.)

Game Time:
4th Q - When we had to have a D play. They drive. We lose. End of game.
But on that final Steeler drive:
Harris lines up Right and M. Moore ran away from him and had 15 yards off his RT. Goons side
Harris lines up Left and Steelers ran away from him AGAIN and M. Moore had -2 yards off his LT - This was game time 4th Q and they ran away from Harris when they had to have the yards, Harris beat his man, that wasn't a missed man. The blocker was there but he beat his man period. Think that blocker is in the doghouse? :)
I am not on the Harris bandwagon by any means!! - but I do say this leave him in there (rotate) for now as we are getting r done on D. When our O catches up - look out! I would spell Harris early for the 4th Q. I understand what you guys are saying, but it is what it is.
Nice to see you like Lovie's play calls Mike, as I do too. I really don't think any front 3-4 is gonna pressure a QB much all the time by themselves. Aint gonna happen unless you have a healthy TH, (he was one in a million) Which we don't - See the Pats/Jets game? Buddy/Rex theory is `send more than they can block' I do not subscribe to the theory that our Dline will get there by themselves, I feel thats hogwash. (propaganda) Besides I love the blitz so it works for me. But one thing, our Blitz got there. And yes I feel Rod has alot to do with this as our D looked like they cared, unlike last year. Motivation.

btw Sanchez won Rookie of the week - Knox has another chance this week.
http://www.nfl.com/partner/story?id=09000d5d812d278c&partnerType=rookies

NFL network showed Cutler on that throw to Knox TD and they really were impressed at Cutler under pressure. as I was, 2 men in his face, and he made that throw and had someone actually catch the da.. ball. Lovies friends? Shutup!
Randy's Big Brain sees......Bears/Jets Super Bowl 2010
Gotta happen.

DA , I've met Tommy on several occasions and you're right he is trying hard to get back to form. My brother who has catered several Bear events know Tommy well and I've seen him turn down fatty foods because he is trying to be strict about the work he is putting in. I also saw his work out regime on mouthpiece.com and after seeing all that I'm trying to take a wait and see approach. Fans in this city don't care about being lovable and liked. They would rather you had been a hard worker all along and shown a few bursts than to have seen you do great and now muddling around very ordinary. They take the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately approach. Sometimes it's hard for me to be critical because I've met several Bears and actually got tickets and a limo ride to the Steelers game with a player's mother. Maybe that's why I try to be optimistic. But I don't like Wolfe's play regardless how many times I've met him. But I'm wishing him the best when we have to count on him. Tommy will round out a lot better than he has shown. He was held out of the preseason and several OTAs so he is just getting better with his reps. Same with Tillman. Worry about them when they can't get on the field at all.

I think the D-line is holding up pretty good, and while he isn't playing at the high level he has in the past, Harris is doing okay. And given his physical condition, I think it's smart to try to keep him fresh until crunch time. Watching the game, as somebody pointed out, Harris was getting double teamed on occasion, and wasn’t even on the field for some of the Steelers big run gains. I remember Harris getting to Rodgers a split second after Ogunleye got to him on one of his sacks, and often times it’s the push up the middle that hems in mobile QBs like Rodgers and Roethlisberger for the DEs to get there, so the DTs deserve some credit too. I don’t see what the criticism is all about, although if he was making more spectacular plays, that would be superb.

I think a lot of us agree that the contract extension for Harris may have been premature, but at the same time, I don't see much merit in complaining about his contract at this point in the season. (Kevin Williams of the Vikings has just 2 tackles and a sack through 2 games but I don’t see anybody complaining about his contract extension.) The contract isn’t even his fault. Let's just face it; through the first 2 weeks, we don't have a DT performing at a pro-bowl level (although I might add that that doesn't automatically make them "bad"), but Harris is the best we have.

The fact that we are starting 2 backups at LB will also affect how the D-line looks on Sundays, and the front 7 as a whole has to step it up to fill in for Urlacher and Tinoisamoa. Somewhere down the line I hope keeping Harris fresh pays off and he catches fire. If that happens, I bet all of us will be making like his contract never bothered us.

And I forgot.

Go Harris! Go Bears!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on September 25, 2009 6:55 AM.

Bears-Seahawks injury report was the previous entry in this blog.

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