Patriots WR ‘Went Missing’ in Crucial Preseason Performance

Getty N'Keal Harry

The pressure is on New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry, and he didn’t deliver in the team’s preseason opener, a 22-13 win over the Washington Football Team on Thursday, August 12.

The third-year pro hasn’t lived up to expectations after being drafted in the first round in 2019. Injuries have been an issue, but overall he’s been mostly ineffective when he has been on the field.

Harry asked for a trade before training camp but didn’t elect to hold out. That has placed an even bigger spotlight on him.

During training camp, Harry had responded well. You could make the argument he’s had the best training camp of any of the Patriots receivers.

Because of this build-up, all eyes were on Harry on Thursday and he responded with just one reception for four yards. It was his only target of the night.

Ryan Spagnoli of Pats Pulpit said Harry “went missing.”

Why Was Harry Ineffective on Thursday Night?

While a deeper analysis of the All-22 tape is in order, the early explanation for another non-descript performance from Harry can be summed up similarly to the others he’s compiled since 2019. Harry failed to create the kind of separation that would make either Cam Newton or Mac Jones comfortable enough to throw it his way.

In case you’re wondering, Harry was in on 61% of the snaps on Thursday. Only three offensive players–all linemen–played more snaps than Harry.

Spagnoli called Harry one of the biggest losers of the preseason opener. If Patriots coaches see it similarly, this game goes down as another wasted opportunity for 24-year-old who would seemingly be running out of chances to impress.

Spagnoli wrote:

Despite his hot start to training camp, 2019 first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry was a non-factor on Thursday. Harry was on the field for most of the offensive snaps for the first three quarters but had just 1 catch for 4 yards. It was more of the same from Harry, despite what he shows on the practice field: he was unable to make an impact on game day. With Nelson Agholor out, the game was an opportunity for Harry to continue his momentum from training camp, but he was unable to have it carry over into the contest. Unless the Patriots want to go heavy in the red zone, Harry’s role in this offense still appears to be limited. With a lot of jobs up for grabs at the wide receiver position, Harry may be on the outside looking in when roster cutdown day comes — despite his strong practices.

Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers appear to be sure bets to make the 53-man roster. The other guys at wide receiver are scratching and clawing to stick to the remaining spots.

After Thursday’s game, Harry has likely lost some ground.

Kristian Wilkerson is Coming on Strong

On the flip side of the wide receiver performance conversation, Kristian Wilkerson seemed to make a great account of himself. The second-year receiver who spent almost all of 2020 on the Patriots practice squad led the team in receptions on Thursday with six.

Wilkerson only had 39 yards receiving because New England’s offense is going to be based on running the football, but he proved himself to be a dependable target.

With Harry struggling, Wilkerson picked a great time to shine. When the preseason is over, if things don’t shift in Harry’s favor, Wilkerson might wind up taking his spot.

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