When assessing what the Patriots defense needed most, Rodney Harrison doesn’t tiptoe around. Following the AFC Championship Game loss to the Ravens, Harrison put out the call for the Pats to acquire an enforcer at safety. He thought the Pats really needed someone who would set the tone for the defense, and put some fear in tight ends and wide receivers coming across the middle. In short, they were a little too soft for his liking. Speaking with Harrison Thursday to get his take on the signing of Adrian Wilson, the former Patriots “enforcer” was quick with the thumbs up. He couldn’t say enough. He loves the addition of the veteran safety, calling the signing a “fantastic move” by Bill Belichick. With all due respect to the other top available safety, Ed Reed, Harrison believes Wilson was the perfect choice for the Pats defense. Enforcer? Check. Fear factor? Check. “Adding him, the veteran leadership, the presence, the respect factor, he’s a guy that’s a terrific blitzer, and a physical presence,” said Harrison, now an NFL analyst for NBC. “I think he can come in especially during nickel and dime situations, and come down (close to the line) and play that second linebacker position like I did. He’s physical enough to help out in the run game, but he can also cover tight ends. So he can be that guy next to (Jerod) Mayo who can come in and really make a difference in that nickel and dime package. . . . It’s a fantastic move. I think he’ll help the Patriots immediately. I think he’ll hold people accountable.” It’s hard imagining a safety getting a better endorsement than that. In New England, the Harrison stamp of approval means something. And the former Patriots star and two-time Super Bowl champion, who similarly was envisioned as being on the downside and cut loose by his original team, allowing him to sign with the Pats, is truly a fan of Wilson, who turns 34 in October. Harrison envisioned Wilson having a similar role to the one he tackled with the Pats for six seasons, but mostly taking on tight ends in those sub packages given Wilson is 6-foor-3, 230 pounds. When told there was some fan disappointment that Belichick didn’t do more to get Reed, especially since the former Ravens safety was a particular favorite of the Pats coach, and typically wreaked havoc with quarterback Tom Brady, Harrison didn’t flinch. He still believes the Pats signed the right guy. While Wilson signed a three-year deal for $5 million, Reed landed in Houston for the same number of years, but for more money ($15 million). “For what the Patriots need, they don’t need Ed Reed. They need an Adrian Wilson,” Harrison said. “They don’t need a free safety that can intercept balls. They have that. Devin McCourty is that Ed Reed (role). He doesn’t have that name behind him. But he is developing into a young safety. They need a guy like Adrian Wilson who can really give them versatility in those nickel and dime packages. He’ll help that secondary right away.” Harrison is well aware that Wilson’s playing time was cut late last season in Arizona and the safety wasn’t playing in sub packages. He also acknowledged the veteran safety had probably lost a step. That didn’t alter Harrison’s assessment. “Part of it . . . there was a calculated plan to get him out of Arizona. They wanted to play the younger guys,” Harrison said of the Cardinals opting for the younger Rashad Johnson during the latter half of last season. “Has he lost a step? Yeah, he’s lost a step. But we all lose a step in our 12th and 13th year. That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive and a really good player used well in the scheme of Bill Belichick’s system. “I still believe he’s an every-down safety. I think it was a fantastic move and I’m looking forward to seeing Adrian play. I’ve really admired him from afar for so many years and seeing him mature. People really don’t understand what he’s been able to accomplish throughout his career because he’s played in such a bad market in Arizona. He’s really an under-appreciated and underrated player. He’s had a fabulous career. He’s a gem. I’ve seen this kid grow. I’ve seen him put on a lot of muscle and develop into a real quality player.” When Wilson first came into the league in 2001, Harrison was still in San Diego, so he got to see him first-hand as a rookie as well as his first few years. So he has a pretty good idea what the Pats are getting.
Rodney Harrison endorses Adrian Wilson
Boston Herald | Mar 31