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biloxi-indian 11-19-2010 08:34 AM

Good Roman Harper article...
Roman Harper was a first-time Pro Bowl player last season, and this season he has been as consistently solid as any member of the New Orleans Saints pass defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL.

"I always tell people how (underrated) Roman Harper is," veteran teammate Pierson Prioleau said. "I mean, you look at the way he pressures, his sacks, the guy can cover tight ends and wide receivers. He's everything you look for in any safety in this league -- a strong safety or free safety. But, you know, sometimes safeties in this league go unnoticed, and he's definitely one of them.

"You start talking about the (Adrian) Wilson kid from Arizona, and the (Troy) Polamalus, the more flashy, flamboyant safeties. But all Roman Harper does every week is come out and get the job done. ... His value to this team is not only underestimated, but immeasurable."

Harper leads the Saints with 43 solo tackles and three forced fumbles. He also has an interception, eight pass defenses, a sack and three quarterback knockdowns. He has earned two game balls, and teammates say he has been recognized with the informal "attaboy" honor after every other one of the Saints' six victories.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins said of all the Saints' defensive backs, Harper has the most responsibility, because he has so many assignments as a run defender, pass defender and frequent blitzer.

This season, more than ever, Harper has stood out as a reliable pass defender, an area that was considered by some a liability.

Cornerback Tracy Porter said Harper has been thrust into more coverage assignments than usual because of the way opposing offenses have tried to spread the Saints' defense.

"And he's responded very well to that," said Porter, who said Harper has worked hard to shed that label as a liability in pass coverage.

"He didn't consider himself a liability, and we didn't consider him a liability. But someone always has to find something to say negative," Porter said. "And I think that's one of the biggest things he wanted to work on. He made a conscious effort to get better, and I think it's really shown."

Big ambitions

Harper, who turns 28 next month, isn't shy about expressing his desire to become one of the elite safeties. He has started all 60 regular-season games he's played in since the Saints drafted him in the second round out of Alabama in 2005. But back then, he admits, he was just "playing football." In recent years, he has tried to master the "mental" game.

He said he studies video feverishly, like he's studying for a big test every week. And he has tried to absorb as much as possible from veteran teammate Darren Sharper, who has become a close friend since arriving as a free agent last season.

"I don't want there to be anything that I don't know going into a game, or let anything surprise me," Harper said. "At the beginning (of my career), I didn't know what all it took to be good in this league. And now that I'm actually focused on that, I can be better than good in this league.

"I can be one of the premier safeties in this league, and I want to be that guy."

Teammates marvel at Harper's work ethic in the weight room, too. Cornerback Leigh Torrence said Harper is known for his training regimen that goes "above and beyond" what most defensive backs are doing.

Harper is also known, and often teased, about the width of his neck.

"You never see a guy with traps that big," laughed Torrence, who said those offseason workouts carry over to the field. "I swear the game is easy for him. It's like he doesn't even sweat. It almost seems like he's got another gear. ... Sometimes he makes the difficult plays look routine."

Harper has always been a good pass rusher. Since 2006, he is tied for third among safeties with 7 1/2 sacks, and fourth among safeties with nine forced fumbles. That doesn't include the ball he stripped in the NFC championship victory over Minnesota.

Toughness and smarts

Harper also seems to have benefitted as much as anyone from last season's arrival of aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who does a good job of featuring players' strengths.

"I get to do a lot of different things. That's what I like about this defense," Harper said. "I get to use my athleticism, a little bit of my toughness, and I have to make a lot of calls, so I get to use my brain, too."

Harper said he still feels as if he can make more plays on the ball and can continue to improve his coverage skills, especially his "eyes" and recognition.

But he said he does feel as though he is having the best season of his career so far.

"I don't know about statistically," Harper said. "But I feel like I'm having one of my better years, just confidence-wise, where I'm at right now in my game and on this team, where I am in the room as a leader. I feel so much more confident about my abilities since I've been in the league right now. And I just understand what I can and can't do, and I understand what I do really well, and I try to do that as much as I can."

The two best plays of Harper's season demonstrate his versatility. He stuffed Pittsburgh tailback Rashard Mendenhall just short of the goal line during the Saints' pivotal goal-line stand in their 20-10 victory against the Steelers in Week 8. And he made an athletic interception in a 25-22 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, capping a night when his coverage was outstanding against dangerous tight end Vernon Davis.

He only has four career picks, and the other three came in 2007.

In the past, he admitted that his stone hands were part of the problem. But this year, he said, he hasn't had any good opportunities.

Maybe a few more interceptions would bring him a little more attention. But for now, Harper said he's content to play his part as "one-eleventh" of a defense that's getting the job done.

"It's cool. I just want to win," Harper said. "And I know more and more eyes will be on me when we have success."

New Orleans Saints teammates say Roman Harper doesn't get credit he deserves |

QBREES9 11-19-2010 08:36 AM

"I don't want there to be anything that I don't know going into a game, or let anything surprise me," Harper said. "At the beginning (of my career), I didn't know what all it took to be good in this league. And now that I'm actually focused on that, I can be better than good in this league

Do it up Roman.

dizzle88 11-19-2010 09:03 AM

The guy is hungry to learn and hungry to always be better, that's what makes players better. He has really come along the past year or 2, I believe the arrival of GW has done wonders for him because he is ina system that originally suited his skill set (blitzing and tackling) BUT NOW the same system as developed his pass coverage skills!! Keep it up Harper.

Ashley 11-19-2010 08:33 PM

most improved defensive player by far.

st thomas 11-19-2010 08:46 PM

solid player

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