Film review: Scouting new Lions safety Duron Harmon
Over the past couple of weeks, we've taken a closer look at several of the Detroit Lions' key offseason additions. We've watched tape from at least three 2019 games for each player and provided a brief scouting report to better familiarize you with the new additions prior to the 2020 season.
Player: Safety Duron Harmon
Age: 29 (Jan. 24)
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, 30¾-inch arms, 4.51-second 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical
Experience: A two-time, first-team All-Big East selection (2011, 2012) at Rutgers, Harmon collected 99 tackles and six interceptions during that 26-game stretch.
Despite not receiving an invite to the scouting combine, the Patriots selected him in the third round (No. 91 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. In seven seasons with the franchise, he was never a full-time starter, but the highly durable defensive back worked more than 500 defensive snaps each of the past five seasons.
Harmon hasn't held an extensive role on special teams since 2016.
Games watched: vs. Chiefs (Dec. 8), vs. Dolphins (Dec. 29), vs. Titans (Jan. 4)
► As the cliche goes, the best ability is availability. After he was a healthy scratch for the first game of his pro career, Harmon has not missed a contest. While his iron-man streak is not recognized by the NFL's official stat keeping service, Harmon has appeared in 111 consecutive games and played at least one defensive snap in 98 straight.
► Harmon's deep understanding of the New England/Detroit defensive scheme is exhibited in his constant communication through multiple layers of the defense pre-snap. When he sees something is wrong, he animatedly alerts his teammates and quickly gets them realigned before the play starts.
► In the three games reviewed, Harmon typically lined up as the deep man in the Patriots defense. His primary responsibility was playing center field in Cover-1, as part of the team's man-heavy scheme. He also saw a good number of reps in Cover-2 and Cover-3.
When patrolling his deep zones, Harmon does a good job of using his eyes, tracking the quarterback's head movement through his progressions. As receivers enter and exit his zones, Harmon rarely overcommits, staying in range to recover and defend a second receiving option in his area.
► Throughout his career, Harmon has tallied 17 interceptions, including 10 in the past three years. A big part of generating turnovers is capitalizing on opportunities. None of his recent interceptions came in contested situations, but rather taking advantage of bad or deflected throws. For a defensive back, he has above-average hands.
► Although he's occasionally slow to react, Harmon covers ground quickly in the back end to close space on many deep throws.
► Harmon is a capable tackler in space. Against Tennessee, he took on hulking running back Derrick Henry in the hole, wrapped him up and brought him down for the solo stop. But too often on film, Harmon abandons proper form tackling in favor of laying a hard hit with his shoulder.
► Pursuit angles in the open field were inconsistent, both playing the run and the pass. Against the Chiefs, Harmon overran receiver Mecole Hardman in the middle of the field after the cornerback in coverage fell down. That allowed Hardman to cut back inside after the catch for a long touchdown.
And before bringing down Henry with a clean tackle, Harmon took a bad angle as the back came across the line untouched on a carry earlier in the game, which allowed Henry to get to the sideline for a chunk gain.
► Harmon has a smooth backpedal and he's fluid getting to his deep zone responsibility regardless of where he lines up before the snap, but his hips are stiff when he needs to change direction to mirror a receiver's break.
► Harmon plays almost too calm and collected, which can present itself as a lack of urgency. When in Cover-1, his late commitment prohibits him from providing over-the-top support on sideline throws.
Against the run, he rarely fires toward the ball carrier from his deep alignment, resulting in modest tackle totals. He recorded just 22 tackles in 657 defensive snaps in 2019.
How he fits: As noted, Harmon played mostly free safety for the Patriots and that would be the natural transition into Detroit's defense, where he can replace Will Harris in the starting lineup while simultaneously mentoring the the 2019 third-round pick.
But despite not showing it in the tape we reviewed, Harmon offers greater versatility, with plenty of experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Lions utilized Tracy Walker as their box safety and tight-end stopper last season, but there are some in the organization who believe his best long-term fit is free safety.
Harmon's extensive experience in the scheme should allow him to play comfortably wherever the Lions need him, giving the team the flexibility to determine the best setup during training camp and the preseason.
Assuming a continuation of good health, don't be surprised to see Harmon play the most defensive snaps of his career in 2020, topping the 702 he saw in 2017.