The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 preseason, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s offseason acquisitions.
Name: Maurice Harris
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 82
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 205 lbs.
2018 review: Following two quiet seasons in Washington, Maurice Harris had a breakout year of sorts in 2018: he established himself as a regular member of his team’s wide receiver rotation, and posted career-highs across the board. Even though the numbers do not jump off the page and are reflective of Harris’ role as a depth player, his third NFL campaign was still a mostly positive one for the former undrafted free agent.
Before he was placed on injured reserve because of a concussion in late December, Harris appeared in twelve of Washington’s fifteen games up to that point. Lining up both in the slot and as an outside receiver — he spent equal time in both roles — he was on the field for 462 of a possible 949 offensive snaps (48.7%). Harris was therefore effectively the team’s number two wide receiver behind only Josh Doctson.
His receiving numbers tell a slightly different story, though, as Harris was infrequently targeted by Washington’s quarterbacks. All in all, he saw 47 passes thrown his way of which he caught 28 for a combined 304 yards with no scores. The numbers are solid for a complementary wide receiver, but still nothing to write home about. As noted above, however, they did make 2018 a career-year for the Cal product.
Harris also saw some action on special teams last season. Before the concussion that cut his season short, he played 26 snaps in the kicking game (of 388; 6.7%). Primarily playing on the return teams, he ran back 3 punts for a combined 11 yards. Again, the numbers are not exactly eye-popping — but they do represent a step in the right direction. Washington, however, did apparently not see enough development to keep Harris around.
2019 preview: After the 2018 season came to an end, Washington declined to place a tender sheet on Harris. In turn, the restricted free agent’s status changed to ‘unrestricted’ and he hit the open market. Shortly thereafter, the Patriots picked him up on a one-year, $1.0 million contract — a deal that did not guarantee the 26-year old a spot on the team. That being said, he looked like a roster lock during his first practices with the team.
After already being a standout performer during organized team activities and minicamp, Harris continued to shine early on in training camp: he proved himself a capable receiving weapon no matter where he lined up, and quickly built chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady. His success continued into preseason, as he caught 3 passes for 27 yards and a touchdown during the Patriots’ first (Brady-less) exhibition contest.
And while Jakobi Meyers probably earns the title for most impressive offseason wide receiver addition so far, Harris still has put himself in a very good position to earn a spot on New England’s roster come the regular season. And while his role has yet to be determined, his size and route running should make him a productive and regularly used weapon in the Patriots’ partially new-look offensive arsenal.