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'Derrick Brooks 2.0?': Texans Rookie LB Points To Hall Of Famer For Comparison

Christian Harris is watching the film of Hall of Fame linebackers who have played under Lovie Smith

HOUSTON -- Don't get Christian Harris started on the Tampa 2 style defense perfected by Lovie Smith. He's been watching the tape of the linebackers since that fateful Friday NFL Draft night. 

Harris, the Houston Texans third-round pick from Alabama, began taking notice of the type of players who have found success under Smith during his illustrious two decades in the pros. Brian Urlacher is one. Lance Briggs is another. 

"The history of the linebackers that have been in this similar defense and have had success like Derrick Brooks and Lavonte David," Harris said. "I mean those are two guys I’ve watched a little bit."

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Harris isn't built like either player. He's meant to play in space and uses his speed to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. That was the decision from the start when the Baton Rouge native arrived in Tuscaloosa to play for Nick Saban. 

The Alabama coach saw him as a slower safety with immense cover skills. After a conversation with Harris, the Crimson Tide moved him to the WILL linebacker spot. Once named a starter in 2019, he never gave up the title until his departure from the program in January. 

"I want to dominate every snap that I can. I think I bring that type of energy to the field," Harris said. "We have a lot of guys in this class for sure and guys on this team that think the same way. Collectively getting everyone on that same mindset to want to win and do whatever it takes. That’s what we did at Alabama."

A video went viral on social media of Smith and Texans general manager Nick Caserio embracing following the Harris selection. Smith, who played linebacker himself at Tulsa, seemed excited to get his hands on another player with stellar tools. 

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Caserio told reporters following the draft that Smith did have a say on the selections.

"We had him ranked high on our board ... We thought he would go a little earlier," Smith said. "To have an opportunity to get him in that round when we did, it’s exciting."

Houston finished top-10 under Smith's direction as the team's defensive coordinator in takeaways. The Texans also allowed the third-most explosive plays (20-plus yards) in terms of passing and finished 23rd in coverage overall.

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Harris in a rotational role should stabilize that area of weakness. The Texans also are looking to improve against the run, ranking 31st among all teams last season, allotting over 100-plus yards a game, 

Smith doesn't have many rules for his defenders, but the most important is tackling. A Smith-style linebacker is a "tackling machine.'' Urlacher, Briggs, Brooks and David all possessed those traits.

Harris in time could be the next on the list of successful Smith defenders. With reps, he should also find a full-time defensive role. 

“I just try to really pick everybody’s brain and learn as much as I possibly can,” Harris said. “That’s kind of the same mindset I’m having here. Obviously, we’ve got Christian Kirksey on the team. He’s a vet. So obviously, I’m pretty excited about that and get to ask him as many questions as I possibly can.”