New England Patriots

Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry (15) fumbles the ball in the end zone for a touchback as Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker (55) defends at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

The start of N’Keal Harry’s 2020 season looked promising. He was actively involved in the Patriots offense, targeted early and often in the team’s Week 1 win over Miami. However, many were quick to put his five catch, 39 yard performance in the rearview mirror after he had the ball punched out on the goal line late in the third quarter.

One of those willing to look past the fumble was Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. Asked about the play on Wednesday, Newton said “Did he have a good game? Yes he did. I think that one play overshadowed the production that he did have.”

“[Harry] would be the first person to tell you that he knows that’s unacceptable,” Newton continued. “Him still being a young player trying to come into his own, things like that will happen, you just want them to be minimized as much as possible.”

MORE: Could the Patriots get out-coached Sunday night?

So what did Harry take away from that play that he can use to prevent something similar from happening again?

“Better ball security, especially down there on the goal line,” he told reporters when asked on Friday. “It’s a lesson learned. I’m glad I learned it early in the season. [I’ll] try to make sure it doesn’t happen again moving forward.”

We’ll see what kind of adjustments Harry makes in the future. It’s not like he made an overly-aggressive play by reaching the ball out toward the pylon, something Patriots players are coached not to do. If anything, the issue came when Harry tried switching the ball to his inside hand away from the marker as Jerome Baker was tackling him. Perhaps that’s the adjustment – not transferring the ball during contact.

As for Cam’s defense of his overall performance? “It was a good gesture,” Harry said. “As soon as it happened all of the offense really came up to me and just told me it was just one play. Just to keep my head up and to keep playing.”

Harry was also asked about a play in the first quarter, when he caught the ball on a screen in open space before being stood up by 5-foot-10, 190 pound defensive back Jamal Perry. Many wondered how the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Patriots receiver didn’t simply steamroll the Dolphins corner and pick up the first down.

“I just didn’t expect the hit,” Harry explained. “[I] didn’t lower my shoulders in time. So moving forward just make sure I keep my pads lower.”

Why didn’t Harry expect the hit. Upon rewatching the play, you’ll notice Julian Edelman miss on a cut block on Perry at the 35 yard line. Edelman is one of the best blocking receivers in the league, and Harry was likely counting him taking Perry out of the play before the DB could get near him. A more experienced receiver may have the field vision to pick up the missed block and adjust, but instead it was a younger player creating a teachable moment.

So while yes, Harry did make a pair of basic miscues on Sunday, they shouldn’t overshadow what was an overall positive performance. It’d also be a reach to use them as ‘red flags’ about his long-term projection. At the end of the day, these were typical rookie mistakes, and although he’s technically in his second NFL season, the Arizona State product is still in many ways a rookie. He only played in seven games last year, with just 24 targets. It’s unrealistic to expect there to be no growing pains as he continues to learn the NFL game in 2020.

As long as he continues to produce in between the mistakes (which he has) and learn from them (which he says he did), all hope is not lost on the 2019 first-round pick.

For more reaction to Harry’s performance and a breakdown of Patriots-Seahawks, check out the Patriots Preview podcast with Matt Dolloff and Alex Barth.

Click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s complete coverage of the Patriots.

Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.