Falcons: Duron Harmon is a perfect fit for Dean Pees’ “multiple” defense

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Duron Harmon could be a perfect fit in Dean Pees’ switching defense because of his versatility as a free safety. During the 2018 season, the Titans dialed up a nickel personnel package on 73% of defensive snaps — ninth-most in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. His defense needs multiple safeties who are versatile enough to be on the field and defend the run, pass, and rush the passer. Pees’ defense has a “type,” and it is safeties who can cover tight ends and running backs man-to-man but are also able to support the run from the box or nickel spot.

In his first full-time role, Harmon performed admirably in the worst defense in the league with the Detroit Lions. Usually, Bill Belichick is a master of letting players walk for big contracts, underperforming in a new city. He does this better than anyone because he knows exactly what his scheme needs and what he can get out of each player. New England’s defense is very similar to Dean Pees’ system, which uses three safeties for most of the game.

Harmon was undoubtedly one of the only highlights of a poor Lions’ defense, and he performed well in every area. Although he’s a free safety, the former third-round pick’s ability to provide elite run-support is second to none at his position in this free-agent class. The safety market is saturated, and due to his age, the price could continue to fall for Harmon’s services, who was the fourth highest-graded safety halfway through 2020.

Harmon could do everything asked of him in Dean Pees’ scheme. He’s also exemplified the Patriot way, so the cultural fit should be seamless too. Harmon’s leadership has been heralded in both New England and Detroit, where he was named team captain with both organizations. The thread of videos below illustrates his versatility on the field, playing more positions than a traditional free safety could — single-high, in the box, and rotating down from a split safety look.

After being traded to Detroit, Harmon had a down year by his standards, but the performance can be attributed to the horrendous Lions’ defense. He was easily the best player on an otherwise atrocious Matt Patricia defense. Harmon excels against the run, can drop deep and blitz from anywhere on the field. His cerebral way of playing allows for quick and accurate diagnosing of pre-snap formations as well as during the play. It seems possible he could return to New England and elevate his game back in Belichick’s defense, but Fontenot would be wise to at least inquire about the veteran’s price point.

Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

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