How miniscule was the buzz surrounding the New England Patriots‘ Week 17 showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Well, let’s just say that Bill Belichick’s bold decision to make N’Keal Harry a healthy scratch in favor of practice squad stash Kristian Wilkerson managed to become the biggest talking point of the Patriots’ blowout win.
In a vacuum, it wasn’t that surprising. After two forgettable seasons to start his career, Harry has somehow been just as disappointing in Year 3.
Through 11 games, the former first-round pick has 12 catches for 184 yards and zero touchdowns. To put those numbers into perspective, Ja’Marr Chase eclipsed them with his performance on Sunday alone.
As soon as Belichick made the call to roll with Wilkerson and make Harry inactive, fans were eager to hear the six-time champ’s explanation.
Based on hist postgame quote, it seemed like an easy decision.
Patriots: Bill Belichick explained why he benched N’Keal Harry in favor of Kristian Wilkerson.
An undrafted free agent out of Southeast Missouri State, Wilkerson seems to have left a strong impression on Belichick. Harry obviously didn’t set a high bar, but give credit to Wilkerson for making the most of a rare opportunity.
The 24-year-old had only been on the active roster three times before Sunday and played a grand total of nine snaps (zero targets) in those games. Despite that, however, he looked the part vs the Jaguars, finishing tied for first on the team with eight targets to go with four catches for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
Essentially, this was Wilkerson’s first career game as a wideout and those four catches were more than Harry (three) has managed in any game this season. For added context, Harry has never managed a two-TD game in 32 career games.
The Arizona State product also has just one game with over 40 receiving yards this season and four such games in his three-year career.
Here’s Belichick’s full quote on Harry’s benching.
We hate to pile on Harry, but Wilkerson gave Belichick no reason to make the third-year receiver active for the rest of the season.
Wilkerson might not play as big of a role when Nelson Agholor clears concussion protocol, but however many snaps Harry was logging as the fourth-string WR should no doubt go to the former undrafted talent from here on out, especially if he’s playing a role on special teams, too.
Belichick and the Patriots have been searching far and wide for the death knell of Harry’s tenure with the organization. Little did they know that the answer was waiting on their practice squad all this time.