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Five Things: Jonathan Harris 

Adding depth to the defensive line was a priority of the Miami Dolphins this offseason. Jonathan Harris is the next in a handful of signings with quality tape against both the run and pass, and infusing a positive mindset into an already high-character Dolphins locker room.

Here are five things to know about new defensive lineman, Jonathan Harris:

1. Working into the Starting Lineup

Progress is rarely linear in the NFL. In the case of Jonathan Harris, a starting role was considered a longshot as an undrafted rookie out of Lindenwood University. Posting 22 sacks, 38.5 tackles for a loss and forcing four fumbles at Lindenwood might not have gotten Harris selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, but it did get him into Bears camp.

Though the Aurora, Illinois native made his debut with the hometown Bears, it was the move to Denver early in that rookie season that spring-boarded his career into a starting role. Before that, Harris would have to wait. Playing 79 and 71 snaps respectively his first two seasons, it wasn't until 2022 that Harris became a regular part of the rotation.

Then, in Broncos camp 2023, Harris earned a role with the Broncos first team.

2. By the Numbers

Part of the Broncos base package, Harris started five of the 17 games he played in 2023. The increase in snaps played is a better indicator of the growth the fourth-year pro displayed. With 522 defensive snaps last season, Harris nearly doubled his three-year rep total and the stats matched.

Harris recorded the first sack of his career, 43 total tackles, four for loss and matched his career high in quarterback hits with four. He added 13 quarterback pressures and 21 stops, showcasing his ability to play the heavy-end role in base downs. His splits were nearly even in terms of reps against the run and pass, indicating how trusted he was on early downs to slow the opponent's ground game.

"He is steady," Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "He is really steady and mature, and that's what you want from your defensive linemen. You want guys who are going to be stout in the running game and have some pass-rush ability to push the pocket but he is steady."

3. You Can Count on Him

Countless adages profess the importance of stopping the run, first and foremost.

"Play the run on the way to the quarterback."

"It starts by setting the edge."

"Make the opposition one-dimensional."

Every football fan has heard these cliches. But cliches are cliches for a reason – they're usually steeped in truth.

When the Dolphins have success versus the run, it opens up the pass rush arsenal of Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb and Zach Sieler. All three of those Dolphins stars play a high volume of snaps for multiple reasons. Perhaps chief among them: a high football I.Q. and the will to work on the less-than-glamorous aspects of the position.

That's where Harris made his name in Denver – intelligence, dependability, and a desire to be coached.

"He's the same guy every single day. He's really smart. He rarely loses his gap. He's rarely on a mistake tape," Joseph said. "So, he's a guy I love because you can trust him."

4. Humble Beginnings

The Lindenwood Lions compete in the Ohio Valley Conference. It's a program that only recently celebrated its 30th birthday (first season of play in 1990). When Harris made his professional debut, he became just the fourth alumni from the small school in Missouri to don the NFL shield. He's the first player from Lindenwood since Pierre Desir – the lone draft pick from the school back in 2014 – to play in the league and already logged the second most snaps of any Lions alumni.

"A lot of patience, a lot of work behind the scenes," Harris recalls of the work he put in to get here, via the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.

"It's all paid off. I was blessed to play all 17 games last year and I'm ready to do that again this year."

5. Culture Fit

A significant portion of the Dolphins roster and coaching staff has a similar story to Harris. Counted out, battled against the odds, now enjoying the NFL fruits of that hard work. Upon signing, Harris recognized a culture that he thinks will embrace him here in South Florida.

"I love the culture here and the direction of the team," Harris said on the Drive Time podcast. "I'm excited."

Harris also thought back to the Week 3 game last year when he and his Broncos were on the wrong side of a 70-20 blowout. Harris said that was his first introduction into how he feels the Miami coaching staff is an impressive one.

"They're a great coaching staff so they exposed a lot of our weaknesses," Harris said.

For more on Jonathan Harris, and the rest of the Dolphins 2024 free agency class, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.