'Iron sharpens iron': N'Keal Harry, Joejuan Williams turn heads and draw cheers in matchup during Patriots OTAs

May 23, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry catches a pass during organized team activities at Gillette Stadium practice field. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
May 23, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry catches a pass during organized team activities at Gillette Stadium practice field. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

At Patriots OTAs on Thursday, onlookers got two glimpses at the future in a single 1-on-1 matchup.

Hopefully the future is a little brighter for rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams, because he got beat by the only higher draft pick than him this year, wide receiver N'Keal Harry. But Williams stood out with his size and length throughout the day, and he made a play of his own when he picked off Brian Hoyer during 11-on-11 drills.

The moment that really turned heads from the assembled media in the bleachers, though, was a Harry catch that he made while matched up against Williams. Harry beat Williams to the inside with a tremendous first step on a slant, then snagged a slightly high pass that was a little away from his body.

One concern for Harry coming out of the draft was whether he had enough speed and explosiveness to get separation against NFL corners. There's little to glean from a single play against a fellow rookie. But Harry's separation on the catch was literally a step in the right direction.

"It's just my job," Harry told reporters in his post-practice scrum. "As a wide receiver my job is to get separation, get open and catch the ball. So that's my main focus out there in every play that I take part in."

May 23, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry catches a pass during organized team activities at Gillette Stadium practice field. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
May 23, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry catches a pass during organized team activities at Gillette Stadium practice field. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Offensive teammates erupted in cheers after the catch, so you knew this battle of highly drafted rookies might have carried a little weight in the locker room on Thursday. Bragging rights go to Harry on that battle. But at the end of the day it's all about both kids pushing each other to improve.

"He's a great player. Iron sharpens iron," Harry said on his matchup with Williams. "He's making me a better player and hopefully I'm making him a better player as well."

Harry stood out more than any other new face on Thursday, the first Patriots practice of the 2019 season that was open to the media. He also made an impressive back-shoulder catch against J.C. Jackson, who looked to have him blanketed in coverage. Harry leaped in the air and went up and got it. He also reeled in a low throw from Jarrett Stidham over the middle in the end zone.

Open practices should continue to excite as long as Harry and Williams match up against each other. They're both big-bodied players who are best suited on the perimeter, so it's likely we see more of the matchup. And hopefully for the Patriots' sake, it leads to both of them gradually improving each other as rookies.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].