Following Sunday afternoon’s 34-13 win in Cincinnati in which he scored his second career touchdown, Patriots' first-round rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry told reporters that he is getting his “groove back out there.”
Really, Harry is actually finding his groove for the first time and finding his role within the Patriots sputtering passing attack after missing the first half of the season in injured reserve.
Harry played 38 snaps against the Bengals. He caught two of the four balls thrown his way, including the 7-yard touchdown. He also had two rushes for 22 yards as Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ made good on his desire to get the rookie more involved.
A day later, both Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and McDaniels expressed pleasure with the way Harry is making strides in his development.
“N’Keal had a good week of practice last week and played a lot of different roles for us yesterday, aligned in a lot of different places in the formation which was a little bit of a change for him, but it was good so that he could do some things that suit him and that fit what we do on offense. I thought he ran hard when he had the ball in his hands,” McDaniels said.
Harry’s touchdown came on a play that was well-covered initially by the Bengals, but with Tom Brady getting plenty of protection he and the young receiver eventually hooked up crossing the back line of the end zone.
“He was on the backside – really ran like a corner pattern, and then protection was great and the play extended a little bit. And so N’Keal did a really good job of not getting shoved out of bounds, out of the back of the end zone, which is what the defensive back was trying to do – which is the smart play, obviously, on their part,” Belichick explained with some praise for his young playmaker. “It’s what any good defensive back would try to do, is to knock the receiver out. And so N’Keal did a really good job of keeping his balance, staying in the field of play, and then just came flat down the end-line and kind of beat [B.W.> Webb back inside on an extended play. So, those red area extended plays and scrambles are something that you always work on, and this one – really, the work on the practice field, and the technique and the fundamentals of doing things right really paid off, as did the other guys. I mean, because everybody – on the scramble, everybody kind of went in a different direction, so we didn’t run into each other. We created space for N’Keal to come back inside. He found that space, but I think one of the best parts of the play was N’Keal’s awareness and his strength to stay in the field of play and not get shoved out.”
McDaniels also had praise for Harry’s ad-libbed score, as well as the other aspects of his game that are coming along, even if not quite as quickly as some outsiders might prefer.
“He also blocked pretty well, did some different things in the – impacted us in a couple of the screen game plays that we were able to make,” McDaniels explained. “He’s just continuing to get better and he works really hard, all our guys work really hard, and he certainly wants to help in any way that he can. He’s got a great attitude. Like I said, it all starts with a good week of practice, and we’re going to need to have another good week of practice this week.”