Marcus Harris has been impressive at Giants’ camp – © USA TODAY Sports Images
It’s a scenario that played out over and over again during New York’s first organized team activity. One of the Giants’ quarterbacks would drop back, scan the field and fire a pass to an intended wide receiver.
Over and over again, that receiver was No. 18. Instantaneously, media would break out the roster and check twice before putting a name to a numeral.
During mini-camp and now training camp, that same No. 18 continues to flash, making reception after reception. If it hits his hands, it’s a catch. The way Marcus Harris sees it, that’s exactly how it has to be.
“Every opportunity I get, I’m just trying to capitalize,” Harris said. “I know I’m not Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle or Odell (Beckham Jr.). I’m just trying to be a spark for the team.”
And he continues to do just that.
While offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo continues the installation of his new West Coast Offense, the Giants continue their growing pains learning their first new offense in seven years. While at times what’s displayed on the field is difficult to watch, Harris has been a consistent bright spot.
There have been no drops. When Harris runs a route, he’s usually open. Despite this being just his second season of professional football, he feels he has a firm grasp on the playbook. After all, it’s similar to the offense he ran his senior year at Murray State.
Eli Manning has connected with the 24-year-old countless times, as has Ryan Nassib. But it’s the one player that will most likely never throw him a pass that Harris says is the biggest connection he’s made thus far.
Victor Cruz made the Giants’ roster as an undrafted rookie – © USA TODAY Sports Images
When the undrafted Harris showed up to Giants’ training camp last year, formerly undrafted Victor Cruz was the first to reach out. The Giants’ Pro-Bowl receiver told Harris to keep working, make plays when the opportunity is there and to do whatever it takes. Harris has followed the advice to a T.
“I felt so relaxed around him and latched on to him,” Harris said. “I look up to him as a role model with what he went through. Being undrafted, it’s tough. It’s not easy and it’s not going to be. I look up to how he fought and how he didn’t care he went undrafted.”
On the practice field, Harris is having a very Cruz-like impact on the Giants, something he credits to his time spent in the Arena Football League. After failing to make the Giants 53-man roster at the end of last year’s camp, Harris signed with the Iowa Barnstormers.
‘Soups,’ a nickname given to Harris by Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver Jeremy Maclin, finished the year with 94 receptions for 1,223 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 1,200 return yards. Going from the NFL, to the AFL, back to the NFL made the game slow down for Harris. Not only that, but he picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.
“Leverage, always attack the defensive back’s leverage,” Harris said. “I learned that in the AFL and I use it all the time here. Even though it’s the AFL and that’s a different kind of football, you can still translate it back to the NFL.
“I know if it’s a post route, I attack the inside leverage. If it’s a corner route, I attack the outside leverage. It kinda helped me out big time when I came back to the NFL.”
Harris knows that he, similar to Victor Cruz in 2010, faces a steep climb if he hopes to make the Giants’ roster. Cruz had a three-touchdown nationally televised preseason performance to help his cause. Harris’ first prime-time showing will be this Sunday’s Hall of Fame game.
There’s also the numbers game. Cruz, Randle, Beckham Jr. and Jerrel Jernigan are all but locks to make the Giants’ roster. Harris, Super Bowl-hero Mario Manningham, Trindon Holiday and Corey Washington are all competing for two spots.
If Harris is cut and clears waivers, he’s still eligible for the Giants’ practice squad, but that’s not good enough anymore.
“I was on the practice squad last year,” Harris said. “I don’t plan on being on it this year.”