The unsung hero for the New York Jets defense this year could very well have been Damon Harrison. While “Snacks” didn’t light up the stat sheet with sacks or forced fumbles, he did all of the dirty work.
Pro Football Focus recognized Damon as the top defender against the run also known as the, “Ted Washington” award. PFF also put him on the All Pro team which is a high honor for any football player. The Jets had one of the best run defenses in the league thanks in part to Harrison. Dame made a defensive stop on 18.1% of all running plays he was on the field for, which was the best rate PFF has ever seen among defensive tackles. Of his 54 total tackles, 49 of them were defensive stops in the run game which also led the league. Furthermore, he only missed 2 tackles all season. Putting Snacks' personal stats aside, he played a large role in the career year that Muhammaed Wilkerson had. Harrison opened up huge gaps for Wilkerson, and that allowed him and the rest of the Jets d-line to wreak havoc in the backfield.
What to do with Snacks: This might be one of the more difficult decisions facing Mike Maccagnan and company this off season. While Harrison had a huge year against the run and opened up giant holes for his teammates to swoop in and make plays, he is going to want a significant pay increase and I don’t blame him. Snacks came out of college undrafted and never got the contract that he now deserves. I don’t think there’s any scenario where the Jets get him for a home town discount. According to Rich Cimini, the Jets should have around 30 million in cap space once all restructures and cap casualties are sorted out. Fitzpatrick, and Wilkerson are both priorities over Harrison to re sign. Once those numbers are subtracted from the total cap space, you’re not looking at much left over for Snacks. While I think it would be beneficial for Gang Green to bring back Damon, it is also important that they bring him back at a reasonable cap figure. 3-4 defensive tackles are some of the lowest paid positional players in the NFL, and there’s good reason: they are only 2 down players. If the Jets lose Harrison, I don’t think it will be the end of the world for the defense. The Jets defensive line is stacked, and bringing back Snacks seems like it’s more of a luxury than a need. The more important obligation for Maccagnan and the front office is to get quicker at the linebacker position, and find an edge rusher. Snacks could be the odd man out this offseason if the two sides can’t agree on a reasonable, yet team friendly deal.
The Jets found a diamond in the rough at the nose tackle position in Harrison but if this was his last hurrah in green and white, it was one hell of a season and Jet career for the undrafted big man out of William Penn.