How Harmon stand out as a potential threat to take Abram’s starting role?
I started to talk about Abram’s coverage issues, and truthfully, there’s no other way to say it – The 25-year-old safety is a liability in passing situations.
In his one game as a rookie in the ’19 season, Abram recorded an allowed completion percentage of 66.7 and an opposing quarterback rating of 109.7. Shocking enough, these are both career bests.
In his sophomore year, Abram allowed a career worst 81.8 completion percentage in coverage, with a quarterback rating of 111.4. Amazingly, this still wasn’t his career worse quarterback rating allowed; That would come in year three when the number raised to 112. In addition, Abram gave up a career high 5 touchdowns in coverage last season.
If there’s any consolation at all here, the yards per completion have trended downward in each of his three years. This number started at 31.0 in his rookie season and dropped to 8.5.
While the completion percentages allowed and opposing passer ratings are horrendous, Abram does deserve his flowers for this 8.5, which is a fantastic number. In fact, it’s so fantastic, it ranked as the third-lowest yards per catch allowed amongst starting safeties. Part of this goes back to Abram working on his situational awareness, settling for unattractive yet highly effective wraps.
Coverage has been an issue for Abram, but for Harmon, it’s a strength.
Throughout the former Patriot’s career, Harmon has totaled 21 interceptions with 38 broken-up passes. He also hasn’t had a season where he’s allowed more than 3 touchdowns and has allowed higher than 67.5% completions just once.
The night and day difference in coverage skills between the two is the first big reason I believe we could be talking about Harmon taking control of the starting job in the middle of the season.
If I had to do an in-depth comparison of their abilities, my guess would be Abram would win most of their skill comparisons. He’s better against the run, presents a better package of pass rushing skills, and is relentless in his pursuits.
In the end, you can even go as far as arguing these things are more beneficial from your strong safety than pass coverage; the Raiders’ defense allowed the fifth-least 20+ yard plays after all, and that’s with Abram’s eye opening struggles in coverage.
This isn’t about what their overall skillsets are, though. This isn’t even about you or I may think is more important from the strong safety position – This is about what Patrick Graham values. Seeing Graham has been vocal about having four or five legitimate corners to cook up schemes with, in addition to grabbing a coverage specialist from the strong safety position, it’s safe to say Graham values coverage.
It isn’t just the coverage aspect, though. The most intriguing thing to Graham is versatility, and Harmon can (and has) played everywhere in the secondary. With Abram’s skill set, he’s limited to one position in the secondary, which likely isn’t ideal in Graham’s eyes.
Graham continues to preach about versatility meaning a lot to him and pounded the table for coverage pieces in the secondary before free agency came around. These are both things that greatly benefit Harmon in this position battle, and could be defining factors in who the starter is down the stretch.
Finally, we move on to the familiarity Harmon has with Graham.
Through the first three years of Harmon’s NFL career, he played for the same defense Patrick Graham helped coach. There’s no need for Graham to figure Harmon out for himself because he already knows what he has in him.
Harmon helped the Patriots appear in four Super Bowls, where New England won three of four, including a 2014 championship with Graham still coaching in Foxborough.
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Abram is entering the final year of his contract, with a fifth-year option as he was a first-round pick. If the Raiders have no desire of picking up that option, this switch can be made at any time, as Abram would hit the free agent market next season. Harmon is currently on a one-year deal, and in the event, Graham decides to roll with him, he’ll be playing for a chance to return, potentially as the starter once more.