Marvin Harrison Jr [608x342]
Marvin Harrison Jr [608x342] (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

NBA summer league 2024 How to watch schedule rosters news

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When the Arizona Cardinals began their positional drills during the early minutes of their only minicamp practice last week, there was a new yet familiar face at the front of the wide receiver line.

In just a few weeks, rookie Marvin Harrison Jr.  has made his way from the back to leading the group, a role decided by the players and typically reserved for veterans or stars. It's an acknowledgement of how his teammates view him and a sign of what his standing is with the team that drafted him No. 4 overall in April.

His ascension to the front was a quick one -- especially for a rookie -- but Harrison deferred to the veteran receivers throughout the offseason, wanting to give them the proper respect and space he felt they deserved.

"I didn't want to come in here with a big head," Harrison said. "I knew I had to earn everything, so just simple things like that. Let them go in front as they rightfully deserve. And then they kinda allow me to go in front now because they understand what I can bring to the team."

It didn't take long for everyone on the field to notice what Harrison was capable of. He was brought along slowly during the first week of OTAs and then fully immersed by the second week. By then, it was obvious. Harrison's integration into the Cardinals has been less than two months in the making, but he's already what his teammates thought he'd be.

Second-year cornerback Garrett Williams used one word to describe Harrison: "Special."

"You look at his height and then you look at his movement ability, those two things usually don't match up like that," Williams said. "So, for him to do it and make everything look so easily, the ball tracking ability, he's everything people said he is."

IN THE FIVE weeks he has had with Harrison, Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon noticed his adjustment to the NFL game has been "pretty seamless."

The game, Harrison said, feels like the same one he's been playing since he was a kid. He acknowledged there's a definite talent difference, especially with cornerbacks. He said they are "super technical" and have "great technique" while also understanding what offenses want to do and how to take receivers out of schemes, something most collegiate corners aren't yet capable of.

While Gannon believes Harrison will need to get used to the speed, he wants his star receiver to focus on how to combat facing corners who have different techniques or body types each week.

"Week 1's going to look different than Week 2 and all that stuff," Gannon said.

To counter the level of cornerback Harrison is going to face, Gannon said he needs to hone in a few releases and perfect them.

"Sometimes less is more with that," Gannon said. " ... I think it would just be a constant growth and learning from his standpoint of what works? What do I need to do? Where does the quarterback expect me? Who I'm playing against? Different ways to get open versus different body types -- little, quick guys, big, long guys, that all matters, you know what I mean?"

The biggest change for Harrison coming from Ohio State has been learning a new playbook for the first time in three years. Fellow receiver Michael Wilson said Harrison hasn't had playbook "busts" and is "pretty seasoned."

"I think he's very perspicacious and always seeking information and very self-aware," Wilson said. "And, so, with that attitude, combined with having elite traits that you can't teach and a great natural field for the position, I truly think sky's the limit for him."

Harrison didn't know what perspicacious means -- "of acute mental vision or discernment," according to Merriam-Webster -- but he was good with it.

"That's awesome," Harrison said. "Whatever that means is awesome."

QUARTERBACK KYLER MURRAY already believes that Harrison will be the type of guy who can have an instant impact.

"I think that takes us to another level," Murray said. "When you got a guy out there that is capable of winning one-on-ones, obviously he's got to go do it and he knows that. We all know it, but as far as manipulating coverage and stuff like that, you got a guy out there that can do that and even if he's not open, he's open.

"I'm excited to be able to build that with him, but when he does what he does, yeah, I fully expect our offense to be top of the league."

Between now and when the Cardinals report for training camp in late July, Gannon wants to see Harrison work smarter, not harder. Coming out of Ohio State, Harrison's work ethic was a thing of lore. Former Buckeyes teammate and current Cardinals teammate left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. remembered Harrison running routes at 6 a.m. at Ohio State and catching passes at 6 p.m.

While Gannon appreciates the effort and ethic, he wants Harrison to scale back a bit.

"He's extremely detailed," Gannon said. "He does a lot extra, probably too much. I'm going to be fighting him about that.

"I love extra work. We just got to be smart about it. You just got to have to have a routine about it, about what you're doing. You only get one cup a day. How are you filling in your cup? And if you're overflowing it somewhere, it's going to take from somewhere else or you might not develop like we want you to develop. So, he's doing a good job with his routine and his plan, what he's doing."

Harrison understands why Gannon wants him to be cognizant about his routine and has adjusted knowing the season is significantly longer than in college. He'll take some time off between now and training camp but said he'll continue putting in the work that got him to this point.

And when he returns in late July for training camp, Harrison will be the Cardinals' WR1 and will continue to show his teammates his capabilities. 

"He's pretty much everything I expected," Wilson said. "He's one of those guys where oftentimes we all have a media perception, but when you meet someone in person, it can either be way different than they portray themselves to media, maybe the exact same or maybe a little bit better.

"He's probably a little bit better."