After having to sit out Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Duron Harmon must have been itching to make his NFL debut.
It didn’t take long for the rookie safety out of Rutgers to get his first snaps on defense. Steve Gregory appeared to get shaken up near the end of the first quarter, so Harmon came in to play next to his former Scarlet Knights teammate, Devin McCourty, at safety.
Harmon was impressive in his first outing, covering the shallow part of the field well and making a quick break to hit Kellen Winslow with an open-field tackle for a gain of just three yards. Harmon mostly played the deep half of the field at free safety during the summer, but in this game he was in at the strong safety position.
“It felt good just to play football again,” Harmon said. “Not being active the first game, not being able to play, just coming out here, it was a good feeling, man. I was excited, man. Got to play a little bit on special teams, got to play a little bit on defense. Just excited and ready to move forward and keep getting better.”
It appears Harmon’s impressive summer was enough to pass second-year safety Tavon Wilson on the depth chart. Otherwise, Wilson would have come in for Gregory in the first quarter, not Harmon. Harmon had draft analysts scrambling when the Patriots took him No. 91 overall in April.
The Patriots have a solid starting 11 on defense right now, so some of the rookies may have to get most of their reps on special teams. That’s why having to come in at a moment’s notice was good experience for the rookie.
“Yeah definitely,” Harmon said. “I think it was just getting experience. I’ve never played in an NFL regular season game. Just getting experience is going to help us because at the end of the year, you’re as good as your depth. And I’m the next guy in, so getting me experience is a good thing. I got that tonight and I’m excited about it.”
Gregory came back into the game just eight snaps later, but Harmon still got reps on special teams throughout the game. He said it was tough to sit out last Sunday’s game against the Bills, but he trusts it was the right decision made by the team.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Harmon said when asked if it was difficult. “Because when you’re a competitor and you want to play football and you truly love this game, anytime you can’t play and help your team win, it’s going to hurt. But the coaching staff and the medical staff knew it was obviously best for me to sit out. And it was. So, I just had to take it and cheer my team on.”
Gregory is playing solid next to McCourty, but it’s obvious the team is still looking towards the future at the position. Harmon’s training camp and preseason set high expectations for the 22-year-old defensive back. The team has had trouble finding consistency at the position through the years, but their future may be in the hands of a couple of former Scarlet Knights.