Back in March, the Jets confirmed the signing of former Colts offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison, who is expected to compete on the interior.
The 25-year-old Harrison is listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, and was an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2014. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Colts, starting 23 games at center and both guard positions.
Harrison was a three-year starter at Florida, having been red-shirted as a freshman and then used as a back-up in his first season. Having gone unselected in the 2014 draft, Harrison was signed by the Colts as an unrestricted free agent.
During his three seasons with the Colts, Harrison benefited from the Colts offensive line struggling and dealing with multiple injuries. As a rookie he started at center from week five to week 15, then in 2015, he started at center from week seven to the end of the season. In 2016, he made four starts, all at guard, but saw plenty of action backing up both guard spots and at center.
The Jets signed him to a free agency deal in the last week of March.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Harrison brings to the table, based on my research and film study.
As noted, Harrison has started games at center and both guard positions. He’s also played all three spots during preseason action and also seen some snaps as a jumbo package tackle or tight end. In college, he mostly played at center but started one game at left guard and one at right tackle.
Harrison has good size and length and some of his athletic workout numbers are pretty good with a 5.15 40-yard dash, 113” broad jump and 27 bench press reps. However, his agility numbers are poor and this manifests itself on film as he struggles with footspeed and lateral quickness.
Harrison’s run blocking has been inconsistent at the pro level. He can sometimes get a good drive going, but is just as often stood up or driven into the backfield when trying to compete at the point of attack. He hasn’t had much success pulling but they occasionally ran a trap with him leading the way.
In short yardage situations, Harrison (#72) is capable of firing out and getting a good surge, as shown below. However, he’s just as often stood up at the line:
One criticism of him coming out of college was that Harrison doesn’t sustain or finish blocks with consistency. While this is something he gets right sometimes (See this clip) this has continued to plague him in the pros as he’ll make an initial block but then get thrown aside so that his man can still get in on the stop. He seems to have more success at the second level, probably because he’s not at a strength disadvantage, but will often whiff if he’s trying to block a moving target in space.
One area where he does impress is on screen passes. He’s sprung some nice gains by making blocks like this one:
On another screen pass, he missed the initial block but after the receiver broke a tackle, he hustled out in front to make another block.
Harrison has also struggled in pass protection throughout his pro career, although he’s always been one of a few problems on the Colts’ line rather than the primary one. 2016 was his worst season in that regard so far, as he gave up pressure at a rate almost twice as much as his first two years. He’s typically held up really well in preseason action, perhaps suggesting that starter-level players and more complicated schemes are too much for him to handle.
Harrison’s main problem in pass protection is that once he’s beaten he finds it hard to battle back into the play and recover. He has good length and adequate strength but doesn’t seem to make the best use of it.
Another major problem is his ability to hold up against a bull rush. He’s on rollerskates here at left guard, leading to an interception:
That’s not just a problem for him when working at guard though. Here he gets driven back while playing center, leading to another interception:
Harrison’s inability to sustain blocks and to recover when at a disadvantage are rooted in his technique. Maybe that’s something he could improve upon with time but, as things stand, as soon as he loses a leverage advantage, his man is usually able to get upfield on him or leverage their way into a running lane.
On this sequence at right guard from late in the Denver game, Harrison isn’t able to get his base wide enough to anchor against a Derek Wolfe bull rush and ends up getting put on his backside. Then, he fails to get initial control of his block, allowing his man to spin off him and leading to another sack:
Harrison could stand to improve both in terms of his hand placement and his footwork, although I fear that he simply doesn’t have the athleticism to move laterally and change direction well enough.
Harrison’s work on special teams has been primarily reserve for the placekicking unit. However, in preseason action he saw some work as a blocker on the kick return team. As I’ve already documented, he isn’t always great at picking up moving targets in space, so he didn’t look comfortably doing this.
In his three seasons, penalties haven’t been a major issue for Harrison. He’s been called for eight penalties, of which four were for holding. He also had three false starts and one illegal formation penalty. He can have a tendency reach with his arms when initially beaten and needs to resist the temptation to grab.
Harrison is regarded as having good intelligence and instincts. In college, he set protections at the line and his awareness in pass protection was considered good. However, on film, he often struggles to react to stunts. This may be down to his slow recovery speed rather than awareness though. He’s also had a few bad snaps as a center, which could be down to concentration or an eagerness to get into his stance early.
Harrison is considered to have a good work ethic and is articulate. He doesn’t appear to have any off-field concerns. He was a team captain at Florida.
Some scouts have said he needs to control his emotions to be effective. In college he was ejected from a game after accidentally making contact with an official as he reportedly was trying to protest about inappropriate language from defensive players.
Injuries haven’t been a big issue for Harrison who played in 51 games in college and has only been inactive for four games in his three seasons. He’s missed time with a minor back injury and through illness. In college he suffered a dislocated elbow.
The Colts mixed in more zone blocking schemes in 2016 and that, coupled with the change from playing center to mostly playing guard, probably impacted Harrison’s struggles. Florida were also a zone blocking team until Urban Meyer’s departure in 2010 at the end of Harrison’s first season, although he didn’t play much and they moved away from zone blocking thereafter.
The Jets also incorporate zone looks, which will presumably continue with offensive line coach Steve Marshall being retained despite the change in offensive coordinator. That experience should therefore prove useful to Harrison, but if he’s less suited to that type of scheme then he might not thrive with the Jets.
It seems unlikely that Harrison will pose a threat to Wesley Johnson for the starting center role as long as Johnson remains healthy. In the comparison to Johnson, it’s interesting to note how Harrison’s last game of 2016 was easily his worst as a Colt. That was reminiscent of the game Johnson had in the last preseason game a few years ago which led to him being released. Johnson has shown significant improvement since that game where he was consistently dominated by Eagles reserve Beau Allen. Maybe Harrison can bounce back in similar fashion.
The suggestion that Harrison’s struggles last year were because he’s not as good at guard as he is at center has some merit, because he was more exposed at guard by his inability to recover. However, while playing center might hide some of his limitations, teams would likely look to exploit those and he still had issues with holding his ground and sustaining blocks wherever he played. In the one game where he played the majority of snaps at center in 2016, he ended up giving up a career-high seven pressures, although his run blocking was good.
Harrison’s versatility gives him a shot at making the squad. He might end up competing with a guy like Craig Watts, who spent most of last year on the practice squad before being activated late in the year and seeing brief action over the last few weeks. That’s probably his ceiling, though, unless the Jets’ line deals with similar issues to the Colts in recent years.