January 27, 2023

Texas rookie linebacker Christian Harris is ready to play in Sunday’s game against the Browns after training fully on Friday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in last week’s loss to the Dolphins. The third-round pick from Alabama has made steady progress in his last three starts, and positional coach Miles Smith said Thursday the coaching staff expect Harris to “keep making more” games and “really show what level he can play at.”

“I think my game has improved every game, every week, every practice I’ve been in,” said Harris, who has started on injured reserve with a hamstring injury in six games since the start of the season during received from the training camp. “That’s been my main focus the entire time since I sort of got back in. Midway through the season I was just trying to catch up with everyone because I was missing a lot of time and cleaning up as many things as possible along the way like technique so I could get those better grades and this team to victory can help.

The Texans coaching staff evaluates linebacker performance based on a number of factors, Smith says, including a player’s position during a game, whether they made the right moves, and whether they had adequate leverage against blockers. The biggest touch from the staff, Smith says, is whether or not the linebacker was constantly being stalked, and whether or not they ultimately made a play in the end.

Harris, who has 30 tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in six games, has improved significantly since his debut. According to Pro Football Focus, he had the third-highest missed tackle rate in the league (33.3 percent) among linebackers during his first three starts (min. 40 snaps), and he’s comfortably ranked the 27th lowest during that time Value (5 percent) improves on his last three starts.

The improvement in the Texans and their last-place rush defense hinges heavily on Harris’ development in a scheme that requires his defenders to play instinctively. Harris helped the Texans keep the Dolphins at 66 rushing yards before walking out the first half with his injury, though Miami relied mostly on a strong passing game that rushed for 297 yards and secured a 30-0 lead.

Harris, playing the wide-ranging “Will” slot in Texans coach Lovie Smith’s plan, will become a key matchup defender against the Browns and NFL’s third-leading rusher Nick Chubb. Miles Smith said Harris finds himself able to make tackles more often, and Harris said he becomes more comfortable in the scheme with every game he plays.

“It’s just a feeling,” Harris said. “I also think over time, the more you play, the more you see certain formations and certain schemes. You just get more comfortable with the game and they said it just comes with time and experience. It’s just a matter of time passing and getting over it.”

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