No one ever doubted N’Keal Harry’s physicality, athleticism or play-making ability. However, it has taken the 2019 first-round draft pick a little longer to adjust to the pro level than we may have expected. After being placed on injured reserve the first eight weeks of the season, Harry was activated and made his NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles back in November and hauled in three catches for a combined 18 yards.
A week later, Harry took another step forward, snagging his first NFL touchdown in the corner of the end zone on a beautiful back-shoulder throw from Tom Brady. However, after catching his first career touchdown versus the Dallas Cowboys, Harry was benched after a poor route led to an interception — one that in turn led fans to think Harry was deserving of the “bust”-label just three games into his career.
Since then, Harry has responded well turning in a big play against Kansas City (that should have been ruled a touchdown) where he took a little screen pass to the outside and barreled over several defenders on his way to the end-zone. Despite the poor outcome of that play, it showcased a bit more of what Harry could do as a runner and in the open field:
FWIW, N'Keal Harry's last five catches:— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) December 16, 2019
DAL: TD - back shoulder
KC: TD - blown call
CIN: 36-yard grab - called back false start
CIN: First down on 3rd & 8
CIN: TD - creating a play
Stats don't show his progress but they're easing him in and about to let him loose. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/bP97XJUtgp
This past week in Cincinnati, we saw him take two jet-sweeps for a total of 22 yards and also haul in a big first-down catch. Harry wasn’t done as he caught his second touchdown of the season in the back of the end zone after his initial route was covered by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback B.W. Webb. Brady buying time in the pocket, however, allowed Harry to get loose and create a play for himself before making a diving catch in the back of the end zone.
“N’Keal had a good week of practice last week,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in his Monday morning media conference call. “[He] played a lot of different roles for us yesterday, aligned in a lot of different places in the formation which was a little bit of a change for him, but it was good so that he could do some things that suit him and that fit what we do on offense.”
N'Keal Harry has been playing way more physical and creating plays for himself in the last few weeks. Great effort last week vs. KC (despite the terrible call) & follows it up yesterday with another impressive TD. Dart from Brady, too. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/8kbKQEOohs— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) December 16, 2019
It’s no secret that McDaniels and Brady have been trying to get No. 15 more involved and they are definitely looking Harry’s way more and more due to the struggle at the wide receiver position and Julian Edelman recently being both banged up and doubled on a lot of plays.
With the New England Patriots currently ranking 26th in red zone offense and no real “big body” in the offense since Rob Gronkowski retired during the offseason, Harry has flashed down there in three out of his last four games and can start becoming a top option in the red area for Brady. Phillip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu and Jakobi Meyers all fizzling out a bit and not showing much consistency week-to-week also opens the door for Harry to have a much bigger role in the offense come playoff time.
Playing 38 offensive snaps this past weekend and finishing with four touches against the Bengals was definitely a good sign for the rookie.