Ex-Tide running back Damien Harris enters his first campaign with “Bills Mafia” and is on a “prove it” one-year deal. Harris goes from playing the Bills twice a year since 2019 to trying to recapture his 2021 form — the one that saw the Alabama back score 15 rushing touchdowns.
Harris’s production dipped significantly last season with the Pats, settling for just three touchdowns. Plus, his rushing yardage went from a career-high 929 yards to dropping to 462 — his worst output in a three-season span. But now, the 5-foot-11, 213-pound Harris has won over his new position coach.
“He’s powerful,” Bills running backs coach Kelly Skipper said to The Buffalo News on Tuesday, July 11. “You can feel his power when he’s running the football. He’s very intentional on how he hits the hole.”
But he’s not the only Bills coach who spoke highly of the addition of Harris.
Bills Coach Reveals Reason Behind Damien Harris Signing
Skipper gets more one-on-one time with the past Tide star compared to Sean McDermott.
However, the head coach of the Bills was instrumental in helping persuade the front office to bring in the former rival starter. He shared the reasons behind adding the AFC East rival with The Buffalo News.
“We felt like we needed a slightly bigger back, but not a 250-pound cloud-of-dust-type of guy,” McDermott said of Harris.
McDermott included how Harris brings a size/power element the Bills were seeking out as they pursue the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“To find a player with some size and with some power, but also has the speed element to go along with it, I think that’s hard to defend, because not only can you run inside, you can get to the edge from time to time,” McDermott added.
Harris is heading to a team he scored five of his career 20 touchdowns against according to Pro Football Reference. However, Harris witnessed his personal struggles against Buffalo too, as he went 1-3 overall against the Bills.
Damien Harris Sounds Off on Struggles With Patriots
Again, Harris is aiming to be in a rejuvenated state now that he’s settling into his new NFL surroundings. He became reflective of his journey to Western New York by being blunt about his struggles.
“My first year, I didn’t play,” he said. “My second year, I started out banged up, ended up banged up.”
Then, “Last year (season four), I was banged up.”
Long story short, ankle and broken finger ailments prevented him from turning into a 1,000-yard back plus a true RB1 for the Pats — which would’ve been a first for him in his NFL career as he mainly rotated with Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris in Tuscaloosa.
Speaking of Alabama’s home, that was where Harris put together two 1,000-yard campaigns as a prized five-star finding for Nick Saban and company. He rushed for 1,037 yards in 2016 then followed with 1,000 in 2017 while forming his backfield trio with the future Pro Bowlers. Harris ended his Tide career with 3,070 total rushing yards and scored 23 total touchdowns, though he crossed the end zone 20 times in his final two seasons with ‘Bama.
Harris joins defensive tackle DJ Dale and safety Jared Mayden as the Tide representatives on the Bills for ’23. Dale comes in as a undrafted free agent from the 2023 class while Mayden was added via the New York Jets’ practice squad in January 2023.