Harmon looking to become a more complete player, maybe add weight

Harmon looking to become a more complete player, maybe add weight

Because of the prevalence of the passing game in the NFL, and because of the reliance on nickel packages to defend the passing game, good safeties -- even ones who aren't considered starters -- are as valuable as ever. 

Duron Harmon, for example, doesn't typically start for the Patriots. However, he's played in over 50 percent of the defensive snaps for Bill Belichick in each of the last two seasons, and he re-signed with New England last week, coming to terms on a four-year contract that will pay him $9 million in base salary over the life of the deal. 

Typically the team's choice in the deep middle of the field on passing downs, Harmon acknowledged in a conference call Friday that he'd like to become a more well-rounded player as he begins his second run with the Patriots.

"I think, I would say, the run area is a key [area] where I feel that I can grow in," he said. "My tackling could be a little bit more aggressive, and I think that’s going to come with putting on a little bit more weight, being able to bang down there. So I think that area is key and could be an area I could grow a lot in, I believe."

Harmon is listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds but said he'd try to gain two or three pounds and see how it feels as he gets ready for the regular season. 

"I’ll try it out maybe in OTAs and minicamp and just see how I feel, and how I like moving around a little heavier," he said. "Maybe like 207, 208."

Harmon makes up a safety group that is among the team's most experienced along with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. McCourty typically thrives in the deep portion of the field on early downs, but he can be used in a variety of ways in coverage and against the run. Chung often plays in the box, providing effective run support and blanketing tight ends. 

If Harmon adds weight and finds the level of aggressiveness he's looking for, perhaps he can become a more versatile chess piece to help keep opposing offenses on their toes. 

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

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Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week. 

Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.

Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons. 

Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.

Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England. 

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

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Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter. 

Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well. 

The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season. 

Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.