N’Keal Harry’s development in the Patriots’ offense continues to be incremental. Sometimes frustratingly slow. But Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ coaching staff seem pleased with the third-year wide receiver for what they’re asking of him.
Harry made only one catch in the Patriots’ 54-13 win over the New York Jets last Sunday, and it came on a pass from Brian Hoyer in garbage time during the fourth quarter. But it was still an impressive grab, as he used his superior size to reach over Jets cornerback Javelin Guidry and haul in the ball for a 28-yard gain. The play helped set up the Patriots’ seventh touchdown of the game.
Based on Belichick’s reaction in a new video of the head coach mic’d up, the coaches are happy with one aspect of the play: Harry’s performance in practice translated to the game field.
“That’s the way to come up with the ball,” Belichick said to Harry on the sidelines, congratulating him after the catch. “Just like in practice, right? Just like in practice.”
BB was mic'd up for last week's win. pic.twitter.com/S2iSuwQoZA— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 29, 2021
“How about N’Keal making the same catch that he did in practice? Same damn catch,” Belichick added when speaking to special teams coordinator Cam Achord.
The catch was a sign of progress in what’s become a theme for Harry, particularly after he made a number of spectacular catches in training camp. When are we going to see that in a real game? He has yet to make a play like that in a high-leverage situation, but it’s promising that he took something from practice and did it against an opposing team on a Sunday.
Harry has been used a lot to block in the running game since returning from injured reserve, and deserves a slice of the credit pie for contributing to the Patriots’ improving ground game.
“His knowledge of not only his role in the running game, but in the passing game, in terms of clearing out routes and then, you know, playing to his size, [is] really an asset for us, not only in the run game but in the pass game,” receivers coach Mick Lombardi said Tuesday. “And I think that’s shown up. And, you know, we talk about being tough and being a tougher opponent, wearing down opponents. N’Keal’s definitely helped us. You could see it in the Dallas game. The first series of the game, we’re trying to set the tone against the Cowboys, and he gets in [Trevon] Diggs’ face a little bit and he gets a personal foul penalty just by, you know, blocking Diggs.
“And I think that’s the kind of mindset that he wants to show, and it’s helping the team win, and I think that’s really what he’s all about.”
Harry still seems far from becoming a regular, high-end contributor as a pass-catcher. But it seems like he’s taking some long-awaited steps in the right direction.
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