The Safety Valve: Meet Carolina Safeties Godfrey and Harris

David ScercyCorrespondent IJune 1, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 19:  Running back Deuce McAllister #26 of the New Orleans Saints rushes against Charles Godfrey #30 and Chris Harris #43 of the Carolina Panthers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

One of the biggest parts of NFL defenses that get overlooked during team breakdowns is the free safety and the strong safety. These players are very important in terms of being the last line of defense when a play is developing.

Most of the time when a defense has a great game you will hear about the D-Line, linebackers, and DB’s. But when you break down game film after a game, a lot of sacks that happen in the NFL is determined by where a safety ends up on the field, and how well a safety plays the routs and the wideouts.

That’s why it is so critical for an NFL team to have two guys at the safety positions that possess the skills and knowledge to work together with the rest of the defense in making sure the play doesn’t get beyond them. The Carolina Panthers have two very aggressive safeties in the backfield for the defense, Chris Harris (SS) and Charles Godfrey (FS).

Chris Harris was born on Aug. 6, 1982 in Little Rock Arkansas. Chris has a twin brother, and two older sisters. He also has a young daughter. Harris played for J.A. Fair H.S. in Little Rock. He later attended Louisiana-Monroe College and started all 45 games he played.

During Harris’ college career he recorded 352 tackles, 14 int, 5 fumbles forced, and 1 sack. He earned 2004 All-Conference honors and his body of work in college got enough exposure he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft (181st overall).

Harris gained a reputation in Chicago as a ball hawk who loved to force turnovers and deliver hard hits. He was an impact for a team that reached Super Bowl XLI, losing to Champion Indianapolis Colts in 2007.

In 8/3/07, Chicago traded Harris to Carolina for a 2008 fifth round draft pick. Harris was immediately plugged into the starting role as strong safety. His first season with Carolina he led the NFL with eight forced fumbles, he also recorded 102 tackles, three fumble recoveries, and one interception. In 2008 Harris recorded 70 tackles and an interception. Chris Harris’ defensive play in the 2009 season could be a major key in how far the Panthers can go as a defense.

Charles Godfrey was born on Nov. 11, 1985 in Baytown, Texas. He attended Robert E. Lee H.S. Charles has an older brother who played QB at Kansas St. In H.S. Godfrey received 5A All-State Honorable Mention. The attention Godfrey received earned him a scholarship to play for the Hawkeyes of Iowa.

Godfrey started at CB his junior and senior seasons at Iowa. His senior season he achieved Honorable Mention All-American by Pro Football Weekly, second team All-Big Ten honors, and the Coaches Appreciation Award for Defense. Charles played 47 games in college, starting 28. He recorded a total of 193 tackles, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

Godfrey’s college career was plenty enough for the Carolina Panthers to select him with their third round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft (67th overall) and make them their immediate starter at free safety. Godfrey started all 16 games for the Panthers in 2008, recording 61 tackles, one sack, and one interception.

In 2009 expect Charles Godfrey to improve tremendously as his rookie season has now come and gone. Now with a little experience under his belt, Godfrey will be more polished with his reads and should react better to the ball.

Together Chris Harris and Charles Godfrey will be looking to stop any receiver, tight end, or running back who breaks through the linebacking core with the ball. A lot of the success in 2009 for the Panthers defense relies on how well Harris and Godfrey play in the backfield.