Dave George: Top pick Harris making strong impression in Dolphins camp

Finally found a way to make 260-pound rush specialist Charles Harris flinch.

While being approached for an interview request coming off the practice field Thursday, the Miami Dolphins’ No. 1 draft pick stopped short. He searched the field for one of the team’s media relations staffers. He wanted to know if it was allowed to speak to a reporter without prior approval, if it was within the Dolphins’ protocols.

No big deal, right? I mean, on the long list of things that a prized rookie could mess up … well, just think of Dion Jordan, the defensive end who once was projected to collect stacks and stacks of sacks for the Dolphins.

Jordan’s name was in the news again this week over an unexpected knee surgery that’s keeping him from practicing with the Seattle Seahawks. What else is new? Miami is still trying to get over their utter waste of the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft on a player who kept getting suspended under the NFL’s substance abuse policy and never seemed to be ready to play.

It’s not supposed to work that way with an investment like that. What you’re looking for are solid first impressions from any first-rounder.

What you’re looking for is Harris, who has made it through mini-camp just fine and hopes between now and training camp in late July to train with Jason Taylor, the Dolphins’ all-time sack leader and a 2017 inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ll just do whatever he tells me to do,” said Harris, who approached Taylor at an offseason team function and hopes to get together in the coming weeks with DeMarcus Ware, another retired Pro Bowl pass rusher.

“Anybody who is great at what they do, I want to be great at what I do. I don’t care if it was Floyd Mayweather. I’d ask him to get into the ring. I don’t care what it is.”

Jordan never seemed to get beyond the draft-day celebration phase. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, Miami’s second-round pick in 2015, has been slow, too, in adopting the consistent effort and focus that are required to excel at this level.

Harris shows none of these lethargic signs.

As a matter of fact, on the April night when Miami spent the No. 22 pick in the draft on him, the former Missouri star strived to separate himself from first-rounders who believe they have already reached their ultimate goal, telling reporters, “I’m going to come into the league and I’m going to dominate. I don’t have the same mind-set as everybody else. I’m not trying to just make it there, I’m trying to get there, stay there, dominate, feed my family — everything, for real.”

There are more than just words here. From the start of offseason workouts, Dolphins coach Adam Gase has expressed satisfaction with Harris’ energy and his readiness to move beyond the basics.

“He’s really done a good job of trying to implement the techniques we’re asking him to do,” Gase said, “and doing everything in the run game (and) passing game exactly what he’s coached to do.”

It’s a continuing challenge for Harris, who played basketball and not football until his junior year of high school, to prove that he belongs. When first at Missouri, he didn’t know what to do during basic drills because, he said, “in high school all I did was just chase the quarterback around.”

On one of his first visits to the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Harris said, “I feel like everything is repeating itself. Coming out of high school, I was a zero star. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I have the same mind-set now.”

Helping his mother Deborah Clark, who has multiple sclerosis, is on Harris’ mind, too. He was home with her in Missouri on draft night rather than absorbing the entire first-round fashion show at Philadelphia.

Where this story goes next is a function of Harris’ maturation as a player. Cameron Wake and Andre Branch will be Miami’s starting defensive ends to start the season. The plan is for Harris to rotate in on passing downs and, eventually, push for starting time.

“Physically, he’s very gifted, explosive, aggressive,” Wake said. “Playing this position there’s no other way that you can be successful unless you have those tools.”

More tools will be added during training camp, plus the pads and the contact that are allowed during that period. Everything up until now has been a warmup.

Compare it, though, to Jordan, who during his time with Miami never even made it to the preheat setting.

This time, the Dolphins have a pass rusher who’s actually in a rush to earn his money.

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