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2020 training camp preview: Safety

On the roster: Tracy Walker, Duron Harmon, Will Harris, C.J. Moore, Miles Killebrew, Jayron Kearse, Jeremiah Dinson, Jalen Elliott and Bobby Price

Key losses: Tavon Wilson

Table inside Article
Tracy Walker13103618
Duron Harmon^1622125
Will Harris1643103
C.J. Moore167000
Miles Killebrew1519000
Jayron Kearse^1528016
Jeremiah Dinson*12884.521
Jalen Elliott*1349022
Bobby Price*10592.528

*college stats ^with another team

Note: Elliott is currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The process for players to return from the list varies from player to player.

Best competition: For me, it's who will start alongside Walker.

The veteran Harmon was acquired via trade with the Patriots this offseason. He's got familiarity in the scheme playing under Matt Patricia when Patricia was the defensive coordinator in New England. Harmon's been durable and productive for the Patriots, but was looking for an expanded role after playing behind Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty in New England the last few years. Harmon recorded 10 interceptions over the last three years as New England's third safety playing a little over 60 percent of the snaps. Opponents completed just over 50 percent of their passes throwing at Harmon last year with no touchdowns and a 39.7 passer rating.

Harris, who the Lions drafted in the third round last year, played in 16 games as a rookie with six starts. He's got terrific size, and showed some versatility in his first season being able to play in the box and in space. Players typically take their biggest leap in development in year two. How big that leap will be for Harris and the rest of the second-year players who weren't afforded an on-field offseason this year is yet to be determined. With 43 tackles as a rookie, Harris certainly can play in the box and come up and make tackles.

Twentyman's take: However the Lions list the "starters," I expect them to continue to use a three-safety package quite extensively. Harris played nearly 60 percent of the defensive snaps last year as the third safety most of the year, with Walker playing 74 percent and Wilson 73 percent.

I like the addition of Harmon, a veteran player who's played some really good football over the years. The Lions need more players who can get their hands on the football. Detroit's seven interceptions last year were tied for the lowest in the league. Harmon is a very good cover safety with those 10 interceptions and 16 defended passes over the last three seasons. What could those numbers look like playing 85-90 percent of the snaps?

Depth is going to be the question mark at safety. Kearse and Moore are veterans, but have just five career starts between them. Dinson, Elliott and Price are incoming undrafted rookies.

Killebrew spent a lot of time with the linebackers last season, but is still listed as a safety on the Lions roster.

By the numbers:

38.1: Percentage of Lions opponent passing yards gained after the catch, the lowest percentage in the NFL last season.

96: Straight games played by Harmon dating back to the start of the 2014 season.

103: Walker led the Lions with 103 tackles (82 solo) last season. His 82 solo tackles were the fourth most among defensive backs. His six tackles for loss were the fifth most by a defensive back.

284.4: Opponents' total net passing yards per game a year ago, which ranked last in the NFL.

Quotable: "We did a lot of things at the Patriots that allowed me to just be in the middle of the field and read the quarterback and I think that's one of my best attributes," Harmon said this offseason after joining the Lions. "I feel like I'm a rangy safety that gets to a lot of places, especially if I have good break on the quarterback, and that's just what I like to do.

"I've been in a very unique situation at the Patriots. Carved out a great role being the third safety behind two of the best safeties in the league. Those guys were great mentors for me. Great example of how to play the game, but eventually I wanted to go to a spot where I can play 90-95 percent of the plays."

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