The Cleveland Browns may have found their backup interior linemen in Michael Dunn and that’s not good news for rookie Nick Harris.
For Michael Dunn, playing in the AAF and XFL was as good as it got for professional football. With the XFL getting ready to relaunch in 2022, it made sense that if he wanted to keep playing that he would return to the XFL. Then the Browns were ravaged with a combination of injuries and positive COVID-19 cases and all of a sudden Dunn was starting against the league-leading defense, with no time to prepare or mesh with his teammates.
You would think that would go badly for Dunn and the Browns, but on the contrary, Dunn shined in his role. He absolutely handled the front-seven of the Steelers and even made All-Pro Cam Heyward a non-factor during Dunn’s time on the field. It was a stellar performance and one that should have earned him a roster spot. Especially over struggling rookie Nick Harris.
Harris was a sixth-round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and it’s possible that he can still turn into something, but the odds aren’t in his favor. The Browns are no longer a team that can just sit on their hands and let rookies go through “growing pains”. If rookies have to play, they need to play up to the standard of the starters.
If not, they need to be replaced.
During Harris’ time filling in for Wyatt Teller, the Browns were unable to get a running game going. If that was a situation that saw the Browns facing off with the Colts, Washington, or the Ravens, that’s fair. They’re all great defenses. No, when Harris stepped in, the Browns faced the Giants and Jets. They aren’t elite defenses.
During Harris’ time at right guard, Nick Chubb rushed for 78 yards, in two games. Kareem Hunt had 32 yards rushing. In two games. Harris was clearly a liability. So much so that PFF has graded him out at a 51.3.
There are those who would argue that because he’s a rookie he should get a pass. Yet, Harris is supposed to be a pro player. He’s not an 11-year-old kid learning to mow the lawn for the first time. He needs to be effective at his job, which he isn’t. You can argue that he “could” turn into that kind of player, but why would you chose the one who “could” one day be a good backup, when you have Dunn, who already proved he is a good backup.
Harris had all year to prepare for his time in the lineup and he failed. Dunn had maybe hours to prep and get to know his teammates and he knocked it out of the park.
Dunn should be brought back, and if you have to cut someone to make sure Dunn stays, that person should be Harris.