James Harrison Could Be Patriots’ Secret Playoff Weapon Vs. Titans

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Patriots outside linebacker James Harrison

Photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

FOXBORO, Mass. — Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey isn’t too excited to reunite with one of his former players this weekend when his team takes on the New England Patriots.

Mularkey was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers when outside linebacker James Harrison first entered the league with Pittsburgh in 2002.

“Still good,” Mularkey said about Harrison on Tuesday. “He just won’t go away. I know him. I was there at Pittsburgh with him. He’s a guy that’s just passionate about it. He doesn’t look much different. I can say that. He still can play.”

Harrison could make a big impact in the divisional-round playoff game. The Patriots’ run defense struggled as the unit was battered by injuries midway through the season. It allowed just 40 yards on 19 carries in Harrison’s Patriots debut against the New York Jets in Week 17, however.

If the Titans are going to win Saturday, they’ll probably have to do so with their ground game. The Titans’ offense ranked 23rd in passing and 30th in passing touchdowns this season. They ranked 15th in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns.

Harrison was expected to contribute as a pass-rush specialist, but he made just as big of an impact setting the edge in his debut. If he takes on a similar role Saturday, he’ll be asked to contain speedy Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“He’s a two-headed monster, so to speak,” Harrison said. “He’s also a running back who plays quarterback. We’ve just got to try to contain him and get pressure to him and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”

Harrison was signed mere days before his debut. He’s now spent over two weeks in the facility and is feeling a little better about his knowledge of the defense.

“A little more comfortable, you know,” Harrison said. “Each day gets a little better. Each week is a little better. …

“It’s a little bit better, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.”

Harrison gave a one-word answer when asked about his impression of working with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick so far.

“Good,” he said.

The Titans should be a familiar team for Harrison. Beyond his experience with Mularkey, Harrison played for 11 years under Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau when both were with the Steelers. Harrison potentially could give the Patriots some intel about LeBeau’s defense, but that’s a topic Belichick typically will shrug off.

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