When Duron Harmon learned that he was being traded from the New England Patriots to reunite with his former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, both sides were excited.
“I was excited to come out here and try to get an opportunity to expand my role, and (Patricia) was excited to get me back just as a player,” Duron said in his first teleconference as a member of the Detroit Lions.
Harmon spent his entire seven-year career in New England as mostly a role player. Behind such talented players as Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty for nearly his entire career, the 29-year-old safety hasn’t had the opportunity to become a true full-time starter.
But now that he’s in Detroit, he’s eyeing the opportunity to compete for a starting role.
“Those guys were great mentors for me, great examples of how to play the game, but eventually I wanted to go into a spot where I can play 90, 95 percent of the plays,” Harmon said. “That’s where I’m expecting to expand my role at.”
It won’t come easy for Harmon. The Detroit Lions have used third-round picks on safeties in back-to-back drafts—Tracy Walker in 2018, and Will Harris in 2019—and Walker appears to be emerging as a leader and true talent on the defense. But Harmon knows of this challenge, and isn’t expecting the job to be handed to him.
“I know they already have two talented young players in the room, and I’m just trying to come there to help in any way I can,” Harmon said. “I don’t know what my considered role will be, but I know whatever I get will be earned.”
In Harmon, the Lions are getting a strong coverage safety who earned the nickname “The Closer” in New England after tallying several game-clinching interceptions, despite his role as a sub-package safety. In the past three seasons alone, Harmon has 10 interceptions. Only nine players in the entire NFL have more over that span.
“We did a lot of things at the Patriots that allowed me to be in the middle of the field and read the quarterback,” Harmon said. “And I think that’s one my best attributes. I feel like I’m a rangey safety that can get to a lot of places, especially if I have a good break on the quarterback.”
Harmon’s skills at high safety could allow the Lions to use Walker in various different roles, including as a box defender, a man-coverage defender against tight ends, or wherever the Lions may need him as a matchup defender. Will that result in Harmon getting that starting role he’s seeking? Time will tell, but for now, he’s willing to put in the work to get there.
“I’m just looking forward to coming in, working hard, doing everything I can to show them that I’m the guy that can go out there and play those plays for you, and do everything I can to lead by example and then just help the team win football games.”