The Detroit Lions made a flurry of moves of the defensive side of the ball during the opening week of NFL free agency. One of their most notable additions was former New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon, who arrived in Detroit via a trade that involved a swap of a fifth-round pick for a seventh in return.
Harmon joins the team’s legion of former Patriots, with the safety having played all seven of his NFL seasons in New England since being selected by the team in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He has not missed a single game in six years, and only missed one game in his rookie season. The recently-turned 29 year old has accrued 17 career interceptions, including two in 2019.
The deal is not just a bargain for Detroit in terms of draft capital. Harmon’s cap hit for this season will fall just around $4 million, making him a relatively cheap starter on the defensive side of the ball.
Harmon will come in and instantly be the best safety the team has. The Rutgers product is a consistent presence in the defensive backfield that can be useful against both the pass and the run. He is far more consistent than Tracy Walker, and he should help Walker and fellow young safety Will Harris reach their potentials.
It is rare for a player who primarily plays free safety to be as good against the run as Harmon is. The defensive back is a smart run defender and does a great job filling gaps when he is lined up in the box. He is quick and accurate in diagnosing plays, and does a great job putting himself in position to assist others in making plays in the front-7.
great job coming up from safety to quickly fill gap and force rb into traffic pic.twitter.com/vm4O68iRH5— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 22, 2020
great play in run defense. gets outside quickly to set the edge and force rb to go back inside. he's great at quickly reading and reacting to plays in run defense pic.twitter.com/uHXmRz7OIU— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 22, 2020
good job gap filling against the run here. combined with danny shelton (hey!!) to stop the run pic.twitter.com/FnmhNnIwkP— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 22, 2020
His raw tackle numbers are not what you would expect from an adept run defender, but the box score cannot really show how just his movements across the defense can stop runners from finding space.
Harmon played a lot of snaps as a lone deep safety. The Patriots, just like the Lions, are a team that use a lot of man coverage. This means that as the lone man back deep, Harmon had a lot of responsibility. One late reaction or one false step could potentially mean giving up a long touchdown on any snap.
The safety showed great speed and coverage range as the last line of defense. Just like against the run, Harmon was quick to diagnose where the ball was going, spring into action, and cover a lot of ground lightning fast to break up plays.
the pass from jones here was terrible anyways but look how much range harmon covers. amazing range while playing deep safety pic.twitter.com/hUkFbEdubr— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 22, 2020
playing deep safety here. quick to read and react to qb and gets all the way to the sideline just in time to break up the play pic.twitter.com/LJsl1TchiD— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 22, 2020
The safety is not perfect in zone coverage, though. He sometimes is too late to react to plays happening in front of him. While he can travel across the field to help a corner playing man, when the Patriots did play zone across the board he was often liable for giving up big gains. Harmon is great at bracketing receivers, but he is not particularly great at controlling a zone of the field.
harmon takes forever to break on arcega-whiteside and gives up a deep reception way too easily. pic.twitter.com/XyphGvs8cG— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 23, 2020
Overall, Harmon is a great addition for the team. Detroit had trouble containing receivers deep in man coverage last year, and he gives Desmond Trufant and whatever likely young player is playing at CB2 a good security blanket. He is a great run defender as well, and can make up for the loss of Quandre Diggs as a run defending safety that keeps the play in front of him.
Detroit’s deep relationship with the Patriots seems to have provided for them once again.