Bryce Harris looked poor in his incredibly short stint on the field last season. Put simply, he wasn't ready, and when he came in to replace an injured right tackle in Charles Brown he didn't perform well against the Raiders. The following week against the 49ers, he started and sustained an injury that would cost him the season on the Saints' opening drive. Easy to think based on that that when Harris returned to the roster for training camp that his odds of making the roster were a long shot, especially when you consider the Saints had already invested draft picks in two tackles (Terron Armstead and Marcel Jones) and landed a former 1st round draft pick in free agency in Jason Smith. Harris, in my mind, didn't really figure to be ahead of any of those guys coming in. Instead, he's now the primary backup tackle.
When Zach Strief briefly left the field with a minor injury against the Raiders in the last preseason game, Harris was the first to replace him. Harris started camp as a right tackle, 3rd string behind Marcel Jones. Then he switched places with Jason Smith to left tackle because of how poorly Smith was performing. That, by the way, is a position that the coaches and Harris himself claimed came "more naturally" to him. And as Armstead continued to struggle at the position while he's still learning the NFL ropes, Harris has jumped to #2. What makes Harris coming in for Strief notable, is it proves he's also the primary backup at right tackle… so both belong to him. Based on that, I think you can expect it's very possible for him to make the team and serve as the "jumbo tight end" this season in numerous sets. At this point I'd go further and say it's almost certain, unless something crazy happens in these last two preseason games which Harris figures to play a lot.
But is he the primary backup because he's done anything? Or is it because Smith has been so horrid, Armstead just isn't ready, and Jones can't cut it? At first I suspected it was the latter and I'll admit my initial reaction when he came in for Strief as the primary backup was "God help us", but then I read this tweet from Pro Football Focus a couple days later:
Only 5 OTs have played more snaps so far than NO @Saints Bryce Harris (95 snaps). He has yet to give up any pressure.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 20, 2013
Color me impressed. Admittedly I haven't looked at individual tackle play as closely in the last two games, particularly from the backups in the second half, because I don't do the player grades in preseason. And I've been so focused on how Charles Brown is holding up, the rest of the line play I've largely ignored. But this was an unexpected turn when you consider Harris was the 4th string tackle last year and only played because of numerous injuries, only to sustain a serious injury himself very quickly after giving mediocre play at best. Once again maybe this offense has found a player in the most unlikely of places that will fill a key role for the team.