After a series of transactions earlier this week, the New England Patriots were left with one open spot on their 53-man roster heading into the weekend — a vacancy that has now been filled: ahead of the 4:00 p.m. deadline to activate him in order to be eligible to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, the Patriots brought rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry back from their injured reserve list (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).
The Patriots’ first-round draft choice in April, Harry quickly showed his potential and upside during spring practices and the early portions of training camp. However, an ankle injury suffered on his third snap of the preseason opener forced the club to place the 21-year old on injured reserve shortly after roster cutdown day — making him eligible to be reactivated from the list at a later point during the season. Now, that point has come.
Harry is one of two Patriots to be designated to return from IR this year and the first to rejoin the 53-man squad (the other, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, is eligible to play in his first game in Week 12). Him being back now is obviously good news for a New England offense that has seen numerous wide receivers come and go ever since the offseason began — one that projects to feature Harry as a top-four option moving forward.
The rookie is therefore expected to receive considerable playing time alongside Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett II and Mohamed Sanu rather early. As a perimeter pass catcher in the mold of recently released Josh Gordon, Harry should see his fair share of opportunities playing the X-position and as a bigger red area target on jump balls and back-shoulder throws. And while it remains to be seen how the Patriots will ultimately use him, his return certainly makes the team’s receiver position a better one.