Duron Harmon next man up at safety

TAUNTON, Mass. – If the New England Patriots continue with the “next man up” theme that has been a significant part of their success in Bill Belichick’s 15-year coaching tenure, it is Duron Harmon’s time in 2014.

The first domino to fall came when starting safety Steve Gregory was released on Feb. 28, which opened the door for Harmon in his second season.

“Steve Gregory was like a big brother/uncle to me, somebody that literally sat me down all the time and watched film with me, broke things down, so he’s definitely going to be missed,” Harmon said Friday after reading to third-grade students at the Elizabeth Pole Elementary School as part of the team’s Celebrate Volunteerism campaign.

“It’s an opportunity for me to show that I am capable of playing and starting. But it all counts towards me. I have to show my worth to Coach Belichick and the coaching staff, and I’m eager to do that.”

Along those lines, Harmon has spent this offseason in Foxborough, and has been working out at Gillette Stadium with cornerback Logan Ryan every day. He’ll be joined by more teammates on April 21 for the official start of the team’s voluntary offseason program.

Harmon is listed at 6-foot and 205 pounds on the team’s roster, and he said Friday that he’s most comfortable in the 205-210 range. That qualifies him as a bigger safety and a potential nice complement to Devin McCourty (5-10, 195).

Harmon, who many viewed as a surprise third-round draft choice last year, played 36.9 percent of the defensive snaps in his rookie season. He started two of the team’s biggest games when Gregory was out with a broken thumb – a Nov. 18 loss at Carolina and a Nov. 24 win over the Broncos – and also was a contributor on special teams throughout the year.

He was asked what he felt good about from his rookie season, and what area he believes needs the most improvement.

“I felt good about just being out there, just getting comfortable out there,” he answered. “Toward the beginning of the season, I was just a little hesitant because playing in the NFL is different than playing in college [at Rutgers]. So just getting comfortable out there and getting repetitions.

“But then, I’d say one thing I still need to work on is just learning the game. There is always more you can learn. When I see Tom Brady still trying to learn as much as he can, so if a man is that good and plays that long is always trying to learn, I need to do the same thing.

“And definitely tackling. I think some games I tackled bad, and some games I tackled well. It was just an inconsistent effort that I know I need to be a lot more consistent with.”