DuJuan Harris: The Gado Remix?

DuJuan Harris ran hard in 2012. He'll have to run harder in 2013 to win a roster spot.

DuJuan Harris ran hard in 2012. He’ll have to run harder in 2013 to win a roster spot.

2005 was a good year. It was awesome to finally be a junior in high school. The world hadn’t discovered that sub-prime mortgages were a really bad idea, so everyone was buying houses. We had no idea who Justin Bieber was. Times were good. Heck, the new Vince Vaugn/Owen Wilson masterpiece would have fit right in.

That was also the year Packer fans got to know a fellow by the name of Samkon Gado. The oddly named Nigerian phenom out of Liberty University burst onto the scene with Green Bay that year, although he could hardly bust the Packers out of what would ultimately be a 4-12 seasons. For a few games, though, he gave the Packers something: hope. He also gave them 582 yards and six rushing touchdowns over the course of seven games before he ultimately succumbed to injury.

The point is, Mr. Gado was fun for a while, but even the fun run he had ended pretty quickly in Green Bay when he was dealt to Houston for Vernand Morency before the 2006 season.

2012 brought an oddly familiar story to Wisconsin. An undrafted, inexperienced player winds up on the Packers’ practice squad after spending time in another city. He emerges from obscurity with a late season burst, leaving fans to wonder if he’s actually a long-term answer. But like Gado, it may be that this second feel good story may end with a ticket out of town.

I’m talking, of course, about DuJuan Harris, the Packers’ late season answer to their running back woes. After a parade of backs cycled through the starting spot throughout most of the 2012 season, Harris finally latched on to the starting job and didn’t let go,  providing a little bit of juice from a spot that had lacked every kind of luster throughout the year.

But did Harris, as good of a story as he was, do anything terribly noteworthy? Or did he just seem special compared to the parade of mediocrity that was the Packers’ running back position last year?

The numbers lend credence to the latter argument. We only saw 62 carries from Harris last year (including playoffs), so to draw any sort of conclusion is iffy, at best. But even the numbers we do have aren’t so great. Let’s consider his week to week breakdown:

As you can see, in half the games in which he appeared, Harris saw very little action at all, and in each of those games, almost half of his rushing production came on one carry. Although the yards per carry numbers look good, they’re inflated by those longer runs.

The stats, obviously, do get better as the year goes on, but they’re nothing terribly special. Suffice it to say, we really don’t know what we’ve got in DuJuan Harris.

But we do know a couple things, some good, some bad. First, he runs hard, to his credit. As you can see in this highlight video, he hits the hole quickly and with authority, something Alex Green has yet to manage in his time in Green Bay.

He’s also comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield, which he did with great success in the Minnesota playoff game. That said, most of those routes were nothing to write home about: mainly just short outlet passes and nothing of real substance in the passing game.

On the negative side are all the expected concerns: he’s little, he’s not especially fast, and he’s never demonstrated proven productivity over the long term. It’s not that you can’t have those things and be successful, but it’s easy to find guys with comparable skill sets for similar prices.

But that said, he’s the only back on the roster who’s had success at the professional level recently. He is cheap, which gives him that much of a leg up on the competition. And most importantly, perhaps, he knows he can succeed. Why should DuJuan Harris be afraid of James Starks and Alex Green when it comes down to competition for what could be the last running back roster spot? He’s taken their jobs once…maybe he’ll do it again.

But if he doesn’t, maybe the Packers will trade him to Houston, just for the sake of repeating history.

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