It’s hard to replace what Steve Gregory was doing for the New England Patriots. The man was calling the defensive plays and playing soundly, functioning as a strong safety and inside linebacker. In terms of talent, though, rookie safety Duron Harmon should be able to replace Gregory just fine.
Harmon was selected 91st overall in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Rutgers University. Bill Belichick certainly split opinions when he selected Harmon that high. Most scouts saw the Harmon pick as a massive reach, claiming that Harmon was a late-round prospect. Belichick and a minority of scouts were impressed by Harmon’s measurables (6-foot-1, 200 pounds with a 4.45 time in the 40-yard dash). It was the classic debate between production (which Harmon had little of) and projection.
Let’s fast forward to the preseason. Harmon outplayed second-year safety Tavon Wilson and veteran safety Adrian Wilson to earn the designation of No. 3 safety on the depth chart, behind Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory. He didn’t get to play much in the first couple of games but has really come on lately.
Harmon’s play thus far has warranted thoughts that he could be the free safety of the future in New England. He has legitimate ball skills and the natural size of a center fielder. Having Harmon back there also allows McCourty to shift to strong safety which is a better fit for him as well.
Belichick apparently agrees with the sentiment that Harmon should play more because Harmon was playing more before Gregory went down. So even with Gregory out for a couple of weeks, it’s not time to panic. Harmon can at least provide an upgrade in coverage and make sure that opposing receivers don’t burn Patriots defenders deep.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.