It seems every week someone is ragging on New England Patriots WR N’Keal Harry. The latest criticism came in the form of some harsh name-calling following New England’s Week 13 win over the Buffalo Bills.
It’s not as if the 2019 first-rounder doesn’t bring some of the criticism on himself.
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Harry has been less than productive throughout his short but non-descript NFL career, posting 531 yards and 4 touchdowns through 30 games (17 starts) to date. That’s especially evident when looking at some of the dynamic wideouts selected shortly after him in 2019: Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, Mecole Hardman, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin and Hunter Renfrow.
Now five months removed from formally requesting a trade out of New England, his claim to fame is that he has found a niche role as a crack blocker on outside run plays. For example, Harry helped spring Damien Harris on his 64-yard touchdown run against Buffalo.
While that skill and ability is getting him on the field, it’s not the sort of quality you want a WR drafted in the first round to hang his hat on.
To make matters worse, Harry made a boneheaded special teams error in the Patriots’ 14-10 win in Buffalo on Monday Night Football.
In Harry’s defense, he hasn’t returned punts with the Patriots, but he allowed the football to bound off his helmet during a punt return, which set up the Bills’ only touchdown of the game.
While Harry hasn’t returned punts with the Patriots, he did do this in college.
Harry Roasted Over Punt Return Miscue
The Patriots rebounded and won the huge AFC East matchup, but Harry’s error could have been disastrous. During the December 6 airing of Heavy Presents: I’m Just Saying, Heavy’s Paul Esden Jr. was asked–along with the rest of the NFL panel–to give one word to describe Harry at this point in his career.
Esden didn’t hold back as he labeled the soon-to-be-24-year-old an “idiot,” saying this moments after Harry’s fumble:
“I’m gonna be prisoner of the moment here,” Esden said during the postgame. “I’m gonna go based off of just what we just saw and the word that jumps to mind is idiot. … That could’ve, should’ve or would’ve cost the Patriots the game. So Harry’s an idiot, first off, just being in that position. What are you doing, man? Back up. When I was back in high school playing football, we yelled ‘fire,’ which meant get the F away from the football.”
“So again, not only was he in the range, which is not good, it bounces off his head and he tried to convince the building. Jump on the ball, man. What are you doing?”
While “idiot” is a harsh term, Harry continues to be a frustrating figure in New England. Let’s also not forget Week 6’s thriller against the Dallas Cowboys when Harry clearly didn’t know where to line up from scrimmage.
Here is a look at the entire segment:
How Can Harry Redeem Himself?
The only way Harry’s tenure with New England can be salvaged is if he starts to catch touchdown passes. That might sound overly simplistic, but scores will heal the sores, especially considering he hasn’t reached paydirt since New England’s 45-0 Week 13 blowout of the Chargers in 2020.
If Harry can become the downfield threat the Patriots hoped he’d be, or at the very least, become a major weapon for Mac Jones in the red zone passing game, Harry can make an impact over the final four regular season games and postseason.
New England also needs for Harry to continue playing a role in the Patriots’ 11th-ranked rushing attack (123.5 YPC). After all, his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is an undeniable asset when it comes to blocking smaller-bodied defensive backs.
However, they could also stand to see him flash some play-making ability as a receiver when the ball does come his way, which hasn’t been often with only 10 targets in nine appearances in 2021. If Harry can wrestle some target share away from team leaders Jakobi Myers (90), Nelson Agholor (55) and Kendrick Bourne (53), he could make the AFC East-leading Patriots — winners of seven straight games — even more dangerous coming out of their Week 14 bye.
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