``He was all over the field making plays,'' coach Ray Rhodes said. ``He covered well. He hits people. That's what we like. He's a very confident young man.''
It no doubt would comfort the Eagles to believe they would be better than 0-3 if Vincent and Bobby Taylor were healthy, and maybe they would be. They would probably feel better, too, if their most impressive player Sunday was one of their draft picks and not a castoff from the Buccaneers.
But there you have it. After all, Al is short for Alshinard, not Alibi. The 6-foot, 185-pound Harris is not here to give the Eagles an excuse for their poor start. To him, playing against Seattle was not an impossible situation in which to be thrown by his new bosses.
``That was like a dream come true,'' Harris said, smiling wide beneath his mop of dreadlocks. ``I really appreciated that Ray and Emmitt [Thomas] had the confidence in me to put me out there after just a couple of days of practice. They saw things in me that obviously they didn't see in Tampa.''
Harris was the Bucs' sixth-round draft pick in 1997. He was on their practice squad all of last season, where he was coached by former Eagles corner Herman Edwards. Although Rhodes said the Eagles liked Harris last year, they could have signed him at any time and didn't. This year, Harris went to camp believing he had a chance to win a job. He was among the final roster cuts. This time, the Eagles snapped him up.
They almost had to. Taylor had broken his shoulder blade in the final preseason game. Vincent missed the last two games with the quad injury, then aggravated it in the Seattle game. Allen Rossum, the Eagles' third-round draft pick, was expected to start in Taylor's spot against the Seahawks. Harris was a surprise. He played well, blowing one coverage when a teammate failed to relay the alignment to him.
Harris seemed to play fine in Atlanta on Sept. 13, but any praise had to be tempered by the Falcons' apparent inability - or unwillingness - to get the ball to their wide receivers. When they did, they usually picked on Rossum, so that tended to keep Harris out of the picture.
But in Arizona, Harris was a revelation. He squared up on Cardinals fullback Larry Centers on a third-down play and, in the open field, tackled him short of a first down. Harris leaped to knock one ball away from Eric Metcalf and drilled him into the ground to break up another pass. It was the kind of hit Rhodes always talks about but has seldom seen from the Eagles secondary.
``I just play, really,'' Harris said. ``I'm a ballplayer. I get paid to go out there and play, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm still learning. Basically, I'm a rookie. Hopefully, I'll get better with time, like a fine wine.''
Rhodes said he expected Vincent to play this week against Kansas City. Taylor could be back within another week or two. Both corners will need some time to get back to 100 percent, so it will be interesting to see how long Harris can stay in the starting lineup.
``Troy and Bobby are the starters,'' Harris said, clearing up any misunderstanding. ``Whatever happens, I'm going to be comfortable with it. Whatever role they have for me, I'll play it.''
Harris is just grateful to have a role. He did not come to the Eagles as a high draft pick, like Taylor, or as a high-priced free agent, like Vincent. This is a kid whose opportunity to go to Florida State was ruined by his SAT scores.
``That was tough,'' Harris said. ``But that was all on me, with the SAT and all.''
He went to a junior college for a couple of years, then wound up at Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he was a teammate of Eagles guard Jermane Mayberry. Harris played safety as a junior and returned to cornerback as a senior. He remembered practicing with ``10, 15'' NFL scouts gathered around the linemen, watching Mayberry. When Harris got to Philadelphia, Mayberry showed him around.
Once he took the field, though, Harris was on his own. That is the nature of his position, and it is Harris' nature, too.
``I've been like that since high school,'' he said. ``At Tampa, I'd go up against Reidel Anthony, Bert Emanuel, people like that, in practice all day. If I get beat on a 90-yard touchdown, the next play I'll be lined up and ready to go again. That's just me.''