Calling it a breakout game would probably be a bit much, but N’Keal Harry certainly had a promising showing on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie wide receiver contributed four touches, 37 scrimmage yards and a touchdown to the New England Patriots’ 34-13 road win and showed off some of the skills that made him the 32nd overall draft pick in April: he displayed smooth hands as well as strong run-after-the-catch abilities.
All in all, Harry had his best and most active game of the season: playing 38 snaps as the Patriots’ third wide receiver behind Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu, he saw his role grow considerably compared to last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs when he was on the field for just two offensive snaps. The 21-year-old acknowledged after the game, that seeing additional action certainly is a step in the right direction for him.
“It was good. Just getting out there, just starting to get my groove back out there. So it felt good,” said Harry in the locker room after a two-catch, two-carry — offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a pair of jet-sweeps that gained a combined 22 yards — performance. Despite the uptick in workload, however, he made sure to point out that his preparation would not change this week and with a potential division-clinching game against the Buffalo Bills on the horizon.
“I take the same approach every day. I really take pride in being a hard worker and being a workhorse, so I just take that approach and try to seize the day,” the Arizona State product said. Harry’s hard work is not going unnoticed inside the Patriots organization, and it was something quarterback Tom Brady also pointed out when asked about the seven-yard touchdown connection he and the youngster had in the third quarter of the game.
“It was a good play by him. He adjusted his route and then came back and found some space. It was a good play, we needed it,” said Brady about the play before talking about Harry trying to get up to speed after he missed the first eight weeks of the season on injured reserve because of an ankle issue. “He’s fighting. He’s working hard every week to learn, and he’s a very hard-working guy. It’s fun to see him make those plays.”
As positive as Harry’s increased involvement in the Patriots’ passing operation is, the rookie knows that the team as a whole still has a long way to go to after it gained only 116 net yards through the air against a Bengals squad that still has only one win on its résumé this regular season: “We did a decent job,” he said. “We could definitely do a better job.”