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Wednesday, 12 July 2017 11:33

Unsung Patriots of 2017 - Duron Harmon

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Unsung Patriots of 2017 - Duron Harmon Image via bostonherald.com

As training camp inches closer to opening, a look at another player for the New England Patriots who may be flying under the radar. 

At the very beginning of free agency, the New England Patriots made a splash of a signing as they added cornerback Stephon Gilmore on a five year $65 million contract. The addition of Gilmore coupled with the return of Malcolm Butler could give New England one of the better secondaries in the NFL. Another player that signed a contract with the Patriot during free agency could be big part of Matt Patricia's defensive plans though. That player is Duron Harmon.


While Harmon may be a reserve in the Patriots defensive backfield, that doesn't mean can't or won't be a key contributor. The four starters in the New England secondary will likely be Butler and Gilmore at both corner sports and Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung as the safeties. Despite being a reserve, Harmon should see a fair amount of playing time. This is due to the fact that NFL teams love to throw the football. Harmon's role with the defense comes in the passing game.


In the Patriots defense, Chung plays almost in a linebacker type role. He will typically be around the line of scrimmage to cover running backs or tight ends. With Chung near the front lines, there needs to be another safety lining up opposite McCourty. That is where Harmon comes in. Even though he is a reserve, Harmon's contributions in the passing game make him a key component to the defense.


When Harmon reached free agency this spring the Patriots showed that he is a key piece to the unit. Early on in the free agency process, Harmon agreed to return to New England with a four year $20 million contract. If he were just simply a backup player he surely wouldn't have gotten $20 million to come back for the next four seasons. Giving him that contract shows how the team feels about where he stands in the defensive plans. He actually may have been a sneaky important free agent for the Patriots. Had he left as a free agent, the only other safety on the roster would have been Jordan Richards, who is a special teamer and may be better suited to fill Chung's role. Had Harmon left, the team would have either had to target another player in free agency or use one of their few draft picks to take a replacement for Harmon. Keying in on him so early in free agency showed where he stands with the team.


In his four year career, Harmon has only missed one game. That kind of reliability is a big factor for Harmon. The only game he has missed came during his rookie season in 2013. Aside from always being on the field, he even contributes as a part time starter. The only season in his four year career he didn't start a game came during the 2014 season when the New England secondary was deep. 


Harmon won't go out on defense and play the same as McCourty would. He isn't asked to do that though. Scheme wise, he is a key part of what the team wants to do. With Logan Ryan departing in free agency, Harmon could be a bigger factor this year in the dime and nickel packages. The slot corner spot will be open for competition in camp this year. Depending on the personnel the opposing team has on the field, Harmon could be a candidate see some snaps in that spot. 


To this point his career, Harmon has shown a little bit of a knack for making crucial plays. Obviously, everyone remembers Butler's interception at the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX. But, it was actually Harmon that even made that play possible. In the divisional round a few weeks prior, Harmon had a game sealing interception in the endzone against the Baltimore Ravens. He even added a game clinching interception against the Miami Dolphins in week two last season.


Duron Harmon intercepts Joe Flacco for a touchback

Over the years, Bill Belichick has made a habbit of scooping up players that have burned the Patriots in the past. That may have been a factor in retaining Harmon. During his career, Harmon has been something of a Dolphin killer. Four of his interceptions in his career have come against the divisional foe. 


Harmon won't be the type of safety that Ed Reed was but New England doesn't need him to be. All they ask is that he is the steady and reliable player in the defensive backfield when the time calls for it. To this point in his career he has been just that. Since he isn't a starter, it seems as though he is often over looked as a key component for the Patriots. For the defense to succeed the way it wants to this season, Harmon will have to continue his steady play.


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Billy Wyatt

Billy Wyatt is a New England Patriots beat reporter for CLNS Radio. Now covering the Patriots for multiple seasons, Billy is a veteran journalist at CLNSRadio.com A graduate of the University of Hartford with a communications degree, Billy’s prior experience was as a sports writer for the Hartford Informer.You can reach Billy via e-mail at bwyatt_91@yahoo.com. And you can follow him on Twitter @Billy_NFL.