FOXBORO -- Few players from the last 20 years can claim they've received as much podium praise from Bill Belichick as Ed Reed.
"He’s the best weak safety I’ve seen since I’ve been in the National Football League in my career," Belichick said of the Ravens safety back in 2012. "He’s outstanding at pretty much everything. The list goes on and on with him. It’s just a question of pretty much anything he’s out there for, he’s good at."
Belichick's appreciation for Troy Polamalu might not be quite at Reed's level, but the former Steelers safety inspired Belichick to go on and on about his football instincts.
"Call it whatever you want to call it," Belichick said in 2013, "but he knows where the ball is or where it’s going and he gets to the right place at the right time way, way, way more often than he’s wrong."
On Wednesday, when Belichick was asked about Vikings safety Harrison Smith, he invoked the names of both Reed and Polamalu. When it comes to pre-snap disguise, the three-time Pro Bowler and 2017 All-Pro is worthy of being mentioned in the same conversation as two of the best at that position from years gone by, per Belichick.
"Does a great job with pre-snap disguise," Belichick said. "He’s one of the best – you know, Smith, Ed Reed, Polamalu. Those guys are, I’d say, among the best. He’s certainly right there. He’s a hard guy to read.
"He does an excellent job of timing his movement based on either the quarterback’s cadence, the offensive formation, motion, the play clock, all those combinations of things. He does an excellent job of using some or all of them to put the offense in a difficult position to account for them or to not account for them when he’s blitzing and so forth. He’s really good."
Smith does it all for the Vikings, getting himself into opposing backfields (three sacks, five total pressures), playing the run, and disrupting throws down the field (three picks, five pass breakups).
He's one of the keys to a defense that ranks No. 1 in third-down success and No. 1 in red-zone scoring. As an offense, if you're not sure what the Vikings are doing because you can't get a read on what Harrison's up to, things can short-circuit quickly.
"Most teams, all teams try to disguise what they do," Belichick said. "I would just say Smith is really good at it. He’s a good player and he’s a strong tackler, he’s good against the pass, he’s good against the run, he makes a lot of plays.
"But, in addition to that, he causes a lot of problems for the offense in terms of running game, whether to crack him, when not to crack him, who’s got him, blitzes, protect him, don’t protect him. He’s a disruptive guy before the ball is snapped, let’s put it that way, and then he’s a good player after the ball is snapped, too."
He has a way to go before he can approach the career achievements Reed did. But Harrison's clearly already done enough to be mentioned alongside one of Belichick's all-time favorites.
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