Today is the first day of training camp for the New England Patriots, so here is the final installment in our ‘positional preview’ series that we have been running over the last couple of weeks. We finish with the safeties.
This safety position is pretty much set in stone. Devin McCourty will obviously start at free safety, as he is one of the best defenders in the league, and for now, Duron Harmon will be starting alongside him. When Brandon Browner returns from his four game suspension, Bill Belichick may try starting Logan Ryan instead of Harmon, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
For now, the biggest thing I will be watching for in training camp is how Harmon looks, and who will rise as the top backup behind him. We know what McCourty will give us. He is a great leader, knows every look the offense is going to throw at him, and he has the athletic skills to roam around, and make the right play. However after that, it is a little bit scary as to what we will see from the rest of the safeties.
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Harmon showed a lot of potential last year, appearing in 15 games, and improving as the season went on. He can go out and cover running backs and tight ends, but he is also not afraid to stick his nose in the front seven, and make a few plays in the running game. As the starting strong safety, he will be called upon to do both. Training camp is the perfect opportunity for him to prove to the coaching staff that he deserves to keep the starting job, especially with Rob Gronkowski cleared to play. If Harmon can hold his own against Gronk, he can perform well against anybody.
The rest of this group honestly scares me to death. I still have nightmares of Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson in the secondary, and I am praying that we won’t have to see them there ever again.
However I do like rookie Jemea Thomas. The former Yellow Jacket was extremely productive in college, racking up 234 total tackles (13.5 of them for a loss), and snagging nine interceptions. He is also versatile, as he played just about every position in the defensive backfield while at Georgia Tech. That will definitely help him in Foxboro, as Bill Belichick loves guys that can play multiple positions.
As an overall group, I would give these guys a solid ‘B’ grade to start the year. McCourty is elite, but the rest lag behind. I like Harmon’s potential, but he will have to prove his worth as the season goes on. He may lose his job to a more talented Logan Ryan, but he better go down swinging.