Polarizing Patriots WR has a New, Understated Role

Getty N'Keal Harry

The New England Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to become a No. 1 wide receiver. That hasn’t worked out, but the team has found a useful application of the big, physical and underachieving wideout.

Harry has been used increasingly as an extra blocker in the run game. Specifically, his crack blocks on talented but unsuspecting edge rushers has proven to be a legitimate weapon for New England.

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ESPN’s Mike Reiss shared his notebook after the Patriots’ Week 10 win over the Cleveland Browns. Reiss pointed out Harry’s effectiveness in helping to neutralize the Browns’ brilliant Myles Garrett off the edge in the run game.

You can read Reiss’ take in the tweet below under the No. 4 bullet point.

Harry’s usage in this role continued on Week 11 Thursday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons. While the Falcons don’t have an edge rusher as dominant as Garrett, Harry’s presence was still felt in the same situations.

NESN’s Matt Chatham went evil empire on us with this tweet acknowledging Harry’s crack block against the Falcons to spring Rhamondre Stevenson on a nice gain.

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It is great to see Harry used in some fashion, but at some point, it seems the Patriots should find a way to incorporate him into the passing game.

Is Harry Still Struggling to Get Open?

Through much of Harry’s career, it seems he has struggled to make himself a viable target for Patriots quarterbacks to find in the passing game. Earlier this year, Harry infamously looked lost as he tried to figure out where to line up on one play.

It seems he has found himself a bit more in recent weeks, but he still isn’t seeing a great deal of production in the passing game. Through seven games, he has just 8 receptions for 117 yards. Needless to say, that’s not an ideal number.

The issue might be increasing depth with contributions coming from Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and tight end Hunter Henry, but we saw on Thursday rookie Mac Jones might simply lack trust in Harry.

Jones threw an interception against the Falcons despite having a wide-open Harry up the sidelines. Jones elected to force the ball to tight end Jonnu Smith rather than passing to Harry who might have had his first TD of the season if the pass had come his way.

Will N’Keal Harry Be Converted to a Move TE?

We’ve seen fans ask for Harry’s position to be switched to tight end. It’s been mostly dismissed, but at this point, the way he’s being used is looking more and more like an inline tight end who is primarily used for crack blocks and as a weapon in the middle of the field for his QB.

Let’s keep our eyes peeled for more opportunities like this for Harry as the season progresses.

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