While there are some bigger names in Free Agency being mentioned as being fits for the Chargers, Duron Harmon is going particularly unnoticed. The Patriots Safety has been stuck behind Pro Bowl FS Devin McCourty but is a key cog in the New England nickel packages. Harmon is utilized as the third Safety on the field with McCourty and Patrick Chung playing the “Centerfielder” role. He’s also often matched up with Tight Ends, sometimes receivers in the slot, in nickel packages making him a versatile piece in that Pats defense. Harmon isn’t a “starter” playing only 506 snaps last year, just under 49% of the snaps but with his progression deserves a bump in playing time.
Duron Harmon is going to make his money as the free ranging DB, sometimes helping out in man coverage but excelling as the centerfielder. Let’s talk about the ground he can cover. As the last line of defense you can’t let anything go over your head. Devin McCourty (right side of the field) and Duron Harmon (left side of the field) are the safeties. McCourty has the underneath route while Harmon has everything behind him, making Roethlisberger’s eyes light up the second McCourty cheats in. The receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is just running a go-route so Harmon has to run to the opposite side of the field to help out. The ball is underthrown but Harmon has got range.
Even more impressive was in the 2015 Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Chiefs. McCourty is the high safety pre-snap then at the snap, Harmon drops back and once Alex Smith is flushed out of the pocket Harmon covers some serious ground to get the interception. Then the toe-tap on the sideline seals it.
Always Be Closing
As the Free Safety in zone, Harmon has the deep half of the field all to himself, which means he’s going to have some chances to make plays. Harmon makes them count. Not only does he have the ability to make a play in centerfield, he comes through when the game is on the line. We saw the interception in the playoffs against the Chiefs in the clip prior but Harmon comes up big, in big moments. These two clips were interceptions to seal the win for the Patriots last year. The first one was a pick to knock off the Dolphins in Week 2 (left side) and the second interception put the nail in the coffin for the Texans in the AFC Divisional game (right side).
So while the Brock Osweiler interception was important to the playoff win none were as huge as the play Duron Harmon made against the Ravens to secure the victory in the 2014 AFC Divisional Game. Harmon is a closer.
Read and Recovery
When Harmon is in coverage he’s often lined up with opposing Tight Ends. As a defensive back, he shows the ability to read and react and has a firm understanding of things going on in front of him. The Dolphins run a bunch formation and Harmon jumps on TE Jordan Cameron to get a hand on the ball. Good angle to get in front of the receiver to break up the pass.
Not every snap is going to be perfect and not every player is going to win but Harmon here shows the ability to recover when things don’t initially work out. Players often rely on their first read and once they’re fooled they stick to the script taking themselves out of plays, Harmon shows he can improvise. He reads the shallow crossers from Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton and he tries to beat them to their spot in the middle of the field. Once Moncrief pivots back to the sideline, Harmon is in no man’s land and reads Andrew Lucks eyes to break up a pass right behind him.
Duron Harmon is not your box safety and struggles near the line of scrimmage. He can take on a ball carrier one-on-one but to ask him to take on blockers is asking too much. Harmon’s role should mirror what the Patriots have carved out for him, the centerfielding Free Safety while filling in as a DB in nickel packages. The Patriots drafted Safety Jordan Richards in the 2nd Round in 2015 so couple that with the fact that the Pats don’t typically re-sign their internal free agents, Harmon just might be looking for employment elsewhere.
Duron Harmon is probably looking at a deal in the neighborhood of 3 years/$12 million. Harmon would fill two roles for the Chargers. He’d automatically compete with Dwight Lowery for the starting Free Safety spot. Harmon could also have a role as a nickel defender which will be a key spot to fill with Brandon Flowers almost certainly out the door. Harmon fills two holes at a low cost while bringing over his leadership capabilities on a side of the ball where this team needs leaders outside of Brandon Mebane. This is the under the radar signing that will pay off if the Chargers decide to take a chance on Duron Harmon.