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Duron Harmon listening, learning in anticipation of possible full-time move to safety

06.17.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was hard not to notice the conversation.

At one point in Tuesday’s minicamp session, with the rest of the defense off on other parts of the practice field, four defensive backs stood together with a member of the New England coaching staff. There were cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, along with safety Devin McCourty. Once Browner is done with his four-game ban for PEDs, this is the trio that will likely serve as the foundation for the Patriots secondary in 2014.

The fourth part of the quartet? Second-year defensive back Duron Harmon.

So what’s your move when you’re a part of a conversation like that, Duron?

“Really, just me listening,” he said a little sheepishly when asked about the scene following Tuesday’s practice.

“You have guys that are All-Pros — what can I really say?” he added. “I’m in my second year, and these guys have played a lot of football and a lot of great football at a high level. It’s really a great chance for me to just sit back and soak up a lot of that wisdom from those three guys.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick cautioned people not to read too much into personnel groupings and on-field action throughout the OTAs and minicamp, but by the looks of things on Tuesday, it certainly appears Harmon has the inside track on the safety spot opposite McCourty, The Rutgers product, who played both corner and safety last season, had two picks and four passes defensed in 15 games in 2013, and certainly showed enough to be considered part of the rotation in the secondary for 2014.

But a series of events — starting with the offseason release of veteran safety Steve Gregory and continuing with the addition of Revis and Browner — have led to Harmon moving from backup defensive back to injecting himself into the mix at strong safety.

While the 6-foot, 198-pounder isn’t a classic hitter in the typical strong safety mold, he’s already put in plenty of work studying some of the best safeties in the game in hopes of getting up to speed as fast as possible. He said Tuesday he spent the bulk of the offseason watching film on safeties like Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Indy’s Antoine Bethea, Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson and Cleveland’s Donte Whitner, as well as McCourty.

“One of the things that I did was just pinpoint a few safeties I thought were very, very good in the game, and I watched them,” he said. “I tried to watch different techniques that they utilized. I tried to watch how they play, how they play physically, how they play at the line of scrimmage. How they play in the deep part of the field. And just seeing what type of football players they are and try and utilize that and put some of it in my game.

“Also, I just went over different coverages that we were in and just drilled myself going over different formations, watching film and keep drilling stuff into my head so it can all be second nature to me when I get on the field.”

Coverages and calls are two of the most important parts of the job at safety, and the 23-year-old said Tuesday he learned a lot from Gregory. Now, it’ll be left to the second-year man out of Rutgers to take on a more vocal role in helping make sure some of the veteran players are where they need to be on defense.

“There are so many different things that can change,” Harmon said of working at safety as opposed to corner. “Mot only the coverages, but getting other people lined up straight. You have to get them the calls. You have to get them different calls. You have to let them know if its an empty check. There’s so much more to being a safety in the NFL than it is in college. the complexity of it all is very big. It takes time to be able to master everything.

“You have to be vocal back there, because the defense is leaning on you for a lot of the checks, a lot of the calls. So you have to be able to be very vocal and very talkative.”

The Patriots do have a history of shuffling their corners, with McCourty the latest success story when it comes to making the move from corner to safety. Harmon has already leaned on McCourty throughout the process, and anticipates doing more of that going forward.

“He’s very, very smart, so it’s very, very easy. He knows his playbook in and out,” Harmon said of his fellow Rutgers alum. “Being with him, it helps me because I get to see the checks he makes and what he sees. I sit by him and see, just talk to him when we’re going over the film to see what he sees, to see why he made that decision or what made him do that or what made him do this.

“I think I’m doing well,” he added. “That’s something that comes with experience. When you’re a rookie, stuff comes so much faster, but now, I’m able to slow a lot of stuff down and it’s not coming as fast.”

Read More: Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon
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