I admittedly haven't been the biggest fan of Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris around here lately. I've been preaching patience and low expectations of a young man who was signed off the street to the practice squad midway through the season and only played six games (including playoffs). Don't misunderstand this to think I don't like some of his skills or think he's going to wash out of the league, I just am extremely cautious about a player like Harris who hasn't showed anything substantial before in his NFL career.
One thing I do believe is that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has an eye for talent, and he apparently sees a lot of potential in the young Harris - enough to tell the media that Harris has a shot to be the Packers starter in 2013. In speaking with the media at the NFL meetings today, McCarthy had this to say of Harris:
Oh, (Harris is) going to play for us this season, that's his responsibility if he wants to be a starter ...
He was a young man that we were just getting ready to try to put in the game. Everybody’s like ‘just put him in there.’ Well, hell, you put him in there, there aren’t too many runs in our offense where we can’t go to a pass, and now he’s protecting for Aaron Rodgers. That’s why there’s a lot of stress schematically and responsibility wise on our running backs ...
Once he got ready, I felt great about the way DuJuan finished the season. Looking forward to having him for an offseason and look for good things for him.
McCarthy does make an excellent point here. With a full off-season in the Packer organization and a chance to learn the playbook and blocking responsibilities completely, Harris will have a much better chance to make an impact as a primary back in the Packers' offense. If McCarthy feels confident that Harris can be a key contributor, then it will ease my mind a little bit.
That said, I still advise caution. Don't get too excited and think that Harris will be an All-Pro. He ran with purpose and fresh legs at the end of last season, but try to keep your expectations in check. If Harris does somehow become a 1,000-yard rusher, I'll be more than happy to say that I was off-base in my estimation of him, just take McCarthy's comments with a grain of salt. If anything, perhaps this is motivation for Harris himself to come in, work hard in camp, and potentially become a key part of the offense. Until then, remember that McCarthy has said similar things about Brandon Jackson, James Starks, and Alex Green, and none of them have proven to be remarkable players either.