Halfway through his third season with the New England Patriots, N’Keal Harry has caught only six passes for 103 yards. Granted, he missed some time on injured reserve, but the former first-round draft pick has been quiet as a pass catcher even when available.
And yet, he has still found a way to contribute to the team’s offense. Look no further than Sunday’s 45-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Playing 35 of a possible 67 offensive snaps, Harry did not only see regular action but he also played a pretty big role in New England’s offense having one of its best days of the season: he was impressive when asked to serve as a run blocker, something he did on 23 of his snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
No matter if going up against second-level defensive backs or Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett, he made his presence felt time and again.
Among his most notable plays on Sunday was Rhamondre Stevenson’s 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter (0:25 in the video above). Aligning on the left side of the offensive formation, Harry helped take none other than Myles Garrett out of the play to help clear the edge for Stevenson.
The Patriots finished the day with 186 rushing yards on 32 non-kneel-down carries. A physical blocker at the point of attack, Harry had an active hand in numerous of New England’s successful run plays versus Cleveland.
Accordingly, the 23-year-old received plenty of praise for his performance after the game.
“N’Keal Harry, man. Shoutout to him,” said fellow wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who registered three carries for a combined 43 yards. “He made a lot of tremendous blocks today, getting the edge started. On a couple of those runs, he helped me get the edge, and it looked really, really good out there.”
The 32nd selection of the 2019 draft, Harry has never quite found his footing as a pass catcher in the Patriots’ system. A combined 28 regular season and playoff games into his career, he therefore has only 53 receptions on his résumé for a combined 538 yards and four touchdowns.
Versus the Browns, he registered one 26-yard catch. That reception came late in the fourth quarter, however, when backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was already inserted into the lineup in place of Mac Jones (the starting QB and the third-year wideout have hooked up only four times this season for a combined 49 yards).
Nonetheless, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also spoke highly of Harry on Monday.
“I thought he did a good job for us,” Belichick said. “N’Keal’s got good size, he’s a competitive blocker. Cleveland played a lot of loaded fronts there with a safety in [Ronnie] Harrison down in the box, so, for the receivers, somebody’s got to block those guys. There’s multiple players that have to do it, but N’Keal had a number of opportunities to block them, and I thought he blocked competitively.”
While not the number one receiver he was drafted to be, Harry has therefore been able to leave his mark on the Patriots’ 2021 offense. It will not be enough to secure him a roster spot heading into next season, but it could very well help this year’s squad make some noise down the stretch.