AFC contenders have made moves during the offseason with one objective in mind: taking down the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Knocking off Bill Belichick, Tom Brady & Co. is a yearly challenge for teams in the conference, along with those in the AFC East, who have seen the Patriots win the division 10 straight years.

The Patriots are the focal point of every team, especially with the residents in Foxborough defending yet another title.

Rodney Harrison, the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, sees definite improvement with some of the top teams and agrees the gap is closing, but wouldn’t sell the Patriots short.

“It’s not a cakewalk and (the Patriots) don’t expect it to be a cakewalk. Teams are good. They’ve added new players, and they’re all trying to come up with new twists and schemes to beat the Patriots,” Harrison said last week. “Teams have gotten better, Kansas City and the Chargers have gotten better. But the Patriots have gotten better, too. Everyone thinks the Patriots just sit on what they have. They went out and got some good players. I like what they did with the wide receiver (N’Keal Harry). I like the pass rush kid (Chase Winovich) and the DB (Joejuan Williams).

“You know, Bill (Belichick) is a smart guy. He’s not going to let everyone know what he’s doing and what his long-term plan is, but they’re always going to be successful because of the type of guys they bring in. They’re going to be there.”

When he was with the Patriots for six seasons, winning Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004, Harrison was a safety who used to lock down tight ends, play linebacker or whatever position necessary to beat a particular opponent. Belichick used all of Harrison’s skills in his defense to take down the Colts, Steelers or whoever else stood in the Patriots’ path.

Harrison, now a commentator for NBC, was not the least bit surprised to see Belichick add more players to the defense who fit a similar profile, whether it was 6-foot-2, 208-pound Vanderbilt cornerback Williams in the second round, or 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Michigan linebacker Winovich in the third.

“Bill’s always going to find those guys, and even more so now with the matchups with the Travis Kelce’s of the world,” Harrison said with respect to the Chiefs tight end. “He’s always looking for guys, getting a corner, 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, who can play inside, outside, play a little nickel, or dime, cover tight ends. That’s what you want, you want that versatility. It works well. They’re just going to continue to do what they’re doing.”

That game-to-game matchup philosophy sure worked for the defense during last season’s Super Bowl run.

As for the offense, during an appearance on WEEI earlier in the week, Harrison joined in with the crowd speculating that Rob Gronkowski would eventually un-retire at some point and rejoin the Patriots. Harrison thought there was “a possibility” the tight end would return late in the year, because he’d “get antsy” being away from the game. We’ll see on that front.

In the interim, Harrison thought the Pats would survive without him. Why? They’ve survived before without Gronk for seasons, not to mention other important players.

“It’s almost like dealing with a player that gets injured. Just because they’re missing Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman, they’re going to keep going,” he said. “One player retired, one player got hurt, it’s the end of the season. No. If anything, it’s going to make them focus on their individual responsibilities even more.”

Told experts had already written off their offense, or don’t think too highly of the group given Brady’s lack of high-level threats, Harrison scoffed at the notion.

“All these so-called experts? Who cares? The Patriots don’t give a crap what those clowns think,” said Harrison.

“Everyone is trying to design a team to beat the Patriots right now. But they’re going to be fine. The Patriots are going to be fine. Look, it’s never easy, when is it ever easy? The one thing that most people can’t match with the Patriots is the coaching … they can take away players. It’s the coaching that really takes the Patriots to the next level. And that’s something most teams don’t have.”

Harrison wasn’t surprised to learn the Patriots have already turned the page on championship No. 6 and are focused on the 2019 season, and championship No. 7. That was the message Kyle Van Noy delivered last week during his session with the media in Foxborough.

“To me, when you’re with the Patriots, it was easy to flip the page. (Belichick) always closes the page. Whatever happened last year is last year. Forget about last year. The teams are different. The perspective is different,” said Harrison. “Some guys are gone, some new guys have come in. Last year is last year. Once you’re able to do that, you get that hunger and thirst back to have success … that’s the difference between the Patriots and a lot of other teams. When (other teams have success), they become complacent. When the Patriots have success, they become even hungrier.”

While the date and time for his Hall induction ceremony has yet to be announced, we wondered if Harrison has a favorite game or memory from his time with the Patriots.

Matching wits against Peyton Manning, and shutting down Dallas Clark.

“Yup, playing against the Colts. That was one of the highlights of my career as far as preparing for them, and all the challenges they presented,” said Harrison. “It was always nice going against the Colts because we knew from a defensive standpoint, we had our hands full because they were supremely talented. They had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If you talk about memories, and teams, it has to be against the Colts. Those are the playoff moments I remember.”