Harmon studied NFL's best safeties in offseason

Harmon studied NFL's best safeties in offseason
June 17, 2014, 3:45 pm
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FOXBORO -- Duron Harmon stood on the Gillette Stadium practice field surrounded by safety Devin McCourty, corner Darrelle Revis and corner Brandon Browner.

Between them Harmon was in the company of 19 seasons in professional football, seven Pro Bowl appearances and five All-Pro campaigns. As the trio of veterans discussed their duties in the defensive backfield, Harmon was silent in his reverence.

"You’ve got guys who were All-Pros," Harmon said. "What can I really say? I’m in my second year. These guys have played a lot of football, a lot of great football at a high level. So it’s really a great chance for me to sit back and soak up a lot of that wisdom from those three guys."

Harmon's humility belies his ability, however. That he was grouped with the three most talented defensive backs on the Patriots roster goes to show what the team thinks of him: It appears as though the starting safety job next to McCourty is his to lose.

When Steve Gregory went down injured last season, Harmon filled in ably. He finished the season with 31 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed.

Though the 2013 third-round pick out of Rutgers wouldn't acknowledge that he's a starter right now -- it's only mini-camp, he insisted -- he did say that he'll continue to practice as though he'll be playing every snap on Sundays.

"I’m approaching it just like last year," he said. "Last year, I approached the game like being a starter, preparing like a starter, because you never know when your opportunity will come. And it came last year. I started three games last year, and I think because I prepared like a starter I was able to play these games and do well."

Harmon knew going into the season that there would be an opening in the starting defensive backfield after Steve Gregory's departure. He put on some weight -- he's now listed at 205 pounds, which is nine pounds heavier than his listed weight going into last season -- and he watched plenty of film.

The film study wasn't only of himself, though. And it wasn't only featuring the Patriots. He watched on his iPad clips of some of the best safeties in the game to try to incorporate pieces of their game into his.

"One of the things that I did was pinpoint a few safeties that I thought were very, very good in the game, and I watched them, tried to watch the techniques they utilized, tried to watch how they played," Harmon said. "Are they physical? Are they on the line of scrimmage? Are they in the deep part of the field? And just try to see what type of football player they are and just try to utilize that in my games."

Safeties such as Dashon Goldson from Tampa Bay, Donte Whitner from Cleveland, Antoine Bethea from San Francisco and Seattle's Earl Thomas -- who Tom Brady has praised in the past as one of the best in the game -- were all dissected by Harmon.

"I think I’d just like to model and take parts from each one of their games," he said. "I think they all do things very, very well. We’re not all the same athlete, so I think picking things from each of their games and trying to mold it to mine is the best thing I can do."

McCourty was also among the group from which Harmon hoped to pluck techniques, but he honed in on a handful of strong safeties "because that’s most likely what I’ll be asked to do if I earn a starting spot."

After a diligent offseason and a spring in which he's held his own with the team's best defensive backs, he appears to be well on his way.