Erik Harris was one of the many one-year signings Terry Fontenot and company made this year while trying to shore up a roster in affordable fashion. The former Raider and Saint was expected to at least provide proven depth for Atlanta, but Harris proved to be much more than that for Dean Pees, as he played in and started 12 of the Falcons’ first 13 games.
Unfortunately for Harris, it sounds like his season is going to come to an end there after he exited the Panthers game early with an injury. If the reports are true, then Harris will finish 2021 with 64 tackles, eight pass deflections, a half sack and a small piece of Robby Anderson’s soul in a jar on his desk.
Source: #Falcons S Erik Harris is out for the season with a torn pec. He’s headed for surgery, with the starter ending his 2021 with 64 tackles and 8 passes defended.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 13, 2021
I’m crushed for him. On balance, he turned in a really solid year for the Falcons, one that saw him consistently contribute on defense and chip in on special teams. Dean Pees was unwilling to throw Richie Grant right into the fire and has brought Jaylinn Hawkins along fairly slowly, leaving Harris and Duron Harmon to carry the load at the safety position. Harris has been the better of the duo in 2021, having allowed the third-lowest completion percentage on passes headed his way of any full-time starter (Fabian Moreau and A.J. Terrell have come out better in that regard) and delivering some big hits when the Falcons needed them most. He missed out on opportunities for a handful of interceptions and tackles over the course of the year, but Harris turned out to be one of the offseason’s better signings, and you hate to see his season end this way.
It would not shock me at all to see Harris return to what’s likely to be a more part-time role in Atlanta if he wants to next year, given that Pees and this defense clearly like having him around, but he did enough this year to land a starting spot elsewhere if he’d rather pursue that. Either way, I hope his recovery goes well and passes swiftly, and I appreciate what he did for this defense in 2021.
The Falcons will hope Richie Grant is back and healthy soon, but Jaylinn Hawkins will likely step in as a full-time starter with Harris out for the moment. Thankfully for the Falcons, Hawkins has been pretty good in his 2021 opportunities and appears to be fully healthy after playing every snap Sunday against the Panthers, so we’ll hope he can deliver for this defense as this team chases their faint playoff dreams.