Head Coach Jon Gruden sees safety Erik Harris growing into a leadership role on defense

For the second week in a row, the Oakland Raiders were locked into a defensive battle, this one against the Green Bay Packers. 

We didn't get to see the Aaron Rodgers/Derek Carr matchup we wanted, but during the Raiders' first offensive series, No. 4 and the starters showed their ability to stretch the field. Aside from the first offensive series of the game, which featured a 49-yard, play-action pass to Amari Cooper, the offense on both sides struggled to piece much of anything together.

Head Coach Jon Gruden and his coaching staff will have a lot of tape to review, but there were a few things he saw from his team that impressed him.

One of Gruden's positive observations was the play of safety Erik Harris.

Harris didn't see a ton of snaps in the first quarter, but the California-native started the game with the first-team defense, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering Gruden has said for weeks now the 28-year-old could potentially be a starter this season. 

In the time he was on the field, Harris totaled two tackles, but Gruden saw something outside of his play style that was more important to him.

"I'll have to look at the film, you know. Just going to about what I've said all along. He's been consistent," Gruden said postgame. "He's been a good communicator in the back end, he's made some plays, he's also I think shown some leadership, and he's been very consistent. I think he did some good things tonight obviously."

Following Gruden's press conference, I spoke with Harris about his head coach's comments.

"I think it's a big compliment, and I appreciate the words, you know, but it's the National Football League, and we have a lot of depth at safety," he said. "It's something you constantly, every day, you have to bring your craft, and bring your best every day because there's a lot of guys in that position that can play. I just need to continue focusing on what I can control, and let the rest take care of itself."

Harris continued.

"That's probably first and foremost more and important to me as a compliment, I would rather have that compliment any day over my style of play or what I can do on the field. I grew up with four younger brothers, and I have kids of my own, so any time I can help a younger guy out, or any body else, it doesn't matter who it's a great feeling for me."

Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie acquired a lot of veteran, experienced players this offseason that are capable of leading, but Harris is coming into his own with the Silver and Black.

Last season, the Silver and Black signed Harris in September, and he instantly made an impact on special teams, thus earning his way into more opportunities. Almost a year later, Harris has a chance to make the 53-man roster, and it's accomplishment he doesn't take lightly. 

"Everything happens for a reason, I'm a true believer in that," Harris shared. "God puts you in the right positions that he wants you in and I'm here because he wants me here, and I truly feel like that. It's a blessing to be a [Raider]."

Going forward, the assumption is that Harris will continue to serve as a fixture in both Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther's system, as well as Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia's scheme, both areas he feels he can thrive in.

"His defense is fun man, it's a lot of fun," He said with a smile. "Like I said, it's simple, but hard for the offense to pick up certain blitzes that we have, but the nice thing is that everybody works together, and everybody is on the same page. Terminology is all the same, we all talk the same language, and that's the most important part I feel like."

Winning is always nice, and to do it in front of Raider Nation is an added bonus. Harris thinks of his start in a similar fashion, he was excited to receive the opportunity, but the fact the team won, and played in front of the home crowd was the cherry on top for him.

"Man, it was a great feeling, you know," Harris said. "Whenever you play at home, especially in front of fans like this, it's a great feeling. I'm just excited to get out there with the guys, you know."

It seems Harris will get plenty more chances to run with the starters; we'll see if he gets some extra playing time in the Raiders' preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks Thursday.

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