New England Patriots

L-R: Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson; wide receiver N'Keal Harry. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Sunday felt like a seminal moment for the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart. But there’s a chance it was closer to a one-week blip.

Kristian Wilkerson stepped into the Patriots’ active lineup and was a key piece of their 50-10 dismantling of the Jacksonville Jaguars, catching four passes, two of which were touchdowns. One of them was an impressive rollout connection with quarterback Mac Jones. On the other, he was simply wide open.

Meanwhile, N’Keal Harry was technically a healthy scratch after being removed from the injury report before the game. This comes after Harry had a poor game with a questionable effort level against the Buffalo Bills in Week 16. So, for many across New England, it felt like the final nail in what’s been a trying three seasons.

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. The Patriots sent Wilkerson back to the practice squad on Monday, so no drastic moves took place on the roster. And when asked about the decision to play Wilkerson and sit Harry for the game against the Jaguars, Bill Belichick sounded like a coach who’s taking this receiver conundrum one week at a time.

“[Wilkerson] gave us some plays in the kicking game and, offensively, he’s had a couple good weeks of practice and a good week this week,” Belichick said in his Monday video conference. “I felt like he had earned the opportunity. He made a couple plays yesterday to help the team, so it’s really a kind of week-to-week thing on who we activate, who’s at the game, who isn’t, and so forth.

“Kristian did a good job of preparing all year as he did as he has every week. He works hard in practice and has improved a lot, both offensively and in the kicking game, and tried to take advantage of his opportunity yesterday. That’s always a good thing for players to get an opportunity, be able to capitalize on it, and show their teammates and the team that they can contribute. It’s kind of how it goes.”

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Despite the “wet blanket” feel of Belichick’s assessment, it’s still notable that the opportunity was there for Wilkerson in the first place. There’s an internal competition going on for that spot on the depth chart, whether it’s been manufactured or it grew organically out of their on-field performance.

It’s important to note that this two-week stretch came without Nelson Agholor in the Patriots’ lineup. He would presumably step back into a regular role once he’s ready to come off the reserve/COVID-19 list, and thus push both Wilkerson and Harry down to the No. 4 role at best.

But Harry’s days in New England may not be as close to over as it seemed on Sunday, as Wilkerson helped the Patriots march up and down the field on the Jaguars. The Patriots are likely to keep considering Harry for his run-blocking and give him decent playing time in run-heavy game plans, as long as he’s on the roster.

As Belichick said, it’s week-to-week.

Patriots Podcast With Alex Barth

Alex Barth and I discussed this very topic as part of our look at the Patriots and the AFC playoff picture in a new podcast. Have a listen below.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.