N’Keal Harry should have opportunity to break out in year two with Patriots

New England Patriots, N'Keal Harry (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots, N'Keal Harry (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

N’Keal Harry is looking for a fresh start with the New England Patriots in year two.

The NFL offseason allows for teams to rejuvenate their collective health status. For New England Patriots second-year wide receiver N’Keal Harry, the 2020 offseason serves as an opportunity to recuperate after an unfortunate injury-riddled rookie year.

New England had serious depth issues at receiver throughout the 2019 season. Even midseason acquisition Mohamed Sanu was bitten by the injury bug after being brought in. As the receiving group as a whole should be recovered for 2020, year two in the NFL offers Harry a chance to showcase the talent he displayed while at Arizona State.

The 2019 group of rookie wide receivers already has some true standout performers. Players such as A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Marquise Brown, among others, have already proven their worth to their teams in palpable ways (i.e. In the box score).

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Harry, the Patriots’ 2019 first-round selection, only appeared in eight games during his rookie season. To some degree, the non-stop storylines surrounding the then-defending champions made him somewhat of an afterthought at times.

Despite this, fans were rightfully excited to see his debut in Week 10 against Philadelphia after a long stint on injured reserve battling an ankle injury. His production over the eight-game stretch might not wow any statisticians but there were serious flashes of talent that makes the future for the 32nd overall selection shine bright.

The New England Patriots could give N’Keal Harry the opportunity he needs.

Both touchdowns (and a third which was inexplicably ruled out of bounds against Kansas City) on Harry’s rookie ledger were proof of his situational awareness and exceptional athleticism. The ability to get both feet down, dive when necessary and complete the process of the catch are all attributes successful NFL skill players must master.

Still, some might argue that such a small sample size does not equate to future value. Truth be told, Harry’s rookie highlight tape, albeit short, leaves fans with legitimate hope that his draft expectations will eventually become reality.

Whether you are skeptical of his talent or not, we can all agree that the Patriots’ new-look offense will need big production out of Harry to stay afloat. As time goes on, second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham seems to be the likely Week 1 starter — although, if we know anything about head coach Bill Belichick, your guess regarding the quarterback depth chart is as good as mine.

For now, let’s just assume Stidham takes the keys to the offense in 2020. Many young quarterbacks will cling to a “safety valve” type receiver as they start to settle in. In New England’s case, Tom Brady had his go-to targets like Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.

You never know who these emerging wideouts will be, and both Welker and Edelman serve as perfect examples. Both started slow, were underrated/valued and had some hiccups along the way.

The main point is that, while year one was a bit underwhelming for N’Keal Harry, he could easily fill that safety valve role for Stidham. It’s all about targets, targets and more targets. They don’t all have to be pretty or even necessary; just find a way to give the playmakers a chance.

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Rest assured, if Stidham (or whoever takes over) can find ways to give Harry more opportunities, we will see some pretty impressive plays in the 2020 season. Above all, availability remains the biggest key to improvement. A healthy season for Harry could pave the way for the future of New England’s offense.