New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry had an underwhelming first season in the pros, but two very different sources provided some insight on it.
Any way you slice it, N’Keal Harry’s rookie season with the New England Patriots left a little something to be desired.
He opened the year on IR after tweaking an ankle injury he suffered in training camp. After spending exactly two months recovering, he finally made his season debut for the Pats in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
And while Harry went on to play in seven straight regular season games as well as New England’s only playoff game, he was far from spectacular during that stretch.
Harry never had more than three catches or 29 receiving yards in a game. He did snag two touchdowns for the Patriots — one against the Dallas Cowboys and one versus the Cincinnati Bengals — but otherwise, his first year was largely forgettable.
Final stat-line: 12 catches on 24 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns across seven games.
No wonder Brady grew frustrated with the first-round receiver during stretches of the season. A 50% reception rate isn’t going to cut it when you’re working with the best of all time, even if it’s your first year in the pros and you’re still just 22 years old (Harry was 21 when he first saw regular season action, as well).
There might be more to this story than first meets the eye though.
Henry McKenna of USA Today’s Patriots Wire offered up an interesting perspective on the whole Harry situation — courtesy of two very different sources. One was Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders GM Mike Mayock, and the other was Brandon Aiyuk, a potential first-round draft pick this April out of ASU who played with Harry back in college.
Let’s start with Mayock.
The former NFL analyst-turned-GM spoke at length during his Tuesday press conference at the NFL combine, and a good part of his speech had to do with Harry indirectly. Mayock was commenting about some of the challenges great college receivers face when adjusting to the pros.
He had a lot to say (you can check out the full excerpt on McKenna’s page), but here were some of the main highlights that apply to Harry:
"“It’s just how much offense you have to absorb… I’ve met with some of the college wideouts already this year, and what they’re doing, half of them are doing this (turning his head) pre-snap. They look over to the sideline, and they have their own individual coach telling them what route to run… You better get in there and get in the huddle, and you better learn three positions, not one. What (an NFL coach) is asking you to learn is mind-boggling.”"
Aiyuk also elaborated on this point in his own way while speaking to reporters ahead of the draft:
"“We were a signal offense (at ASU). So for (Harry), going into camp, he was hearing NFL play calls and verbiage for the first time. So that’s one thing I’ve been working on this offseason, even before I get into camp, just so I can get used to hearing it.”"
Combine these two sentiments, and you get the picture. A potential explanation for Harry’s relatively slow process and acclimation to the offense — other than the fact that he missed more than half of the regular season — could be that he’s still getting used to the Patriots’ playbook and having to memorize so many different routes, scenarios, and contingencies.