Off Day Mailbag: Getting to the bottom of N’Keal Harry situation


Welcome to another Off Day Mailbag where Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable answer questions leftover from their weekly podcast.

Look for @OffDayPod seeking questions for the podcast and mailbag. Tweet your questions to that account and then look for them to appear in the podcast, mailbag, or even both. 

Is N’Keal Harry’s issue physical or mental? (@nhpilot63)

I’m not sure that Harry has an “issue.” But his delayed debut and impact are tied to both physical and mental hurdles, I would assume. Clearly the injury that landed him on IR for the first half of the season is the biggest factor in why we’ve yet to see him. Of course being on IR means he also missed a half season of practice time that’s so key to a young player’s development, especially a receiver in the Patriots’ complex passing game. Physically, in terms of health, Harry is clearly ready to go, based on his joining the 53-man roster and those around him describing his work on the practice field. Now, he must find a way to break into the rotation at receiver. I’ve had my doubts about his rookie readiness – both mentally within the offense and physically getting open and catching the football – all the way back to training camp. Obviously no one in the media has seen him practice since camp. Where he is exactly right now in terms of the physical and mental requirements is only known by the players and coaches around him. I’m intrigued to see what Harry can do if/when he gets on the game field. I also still have plenty of doubts.

— Andy Hart

How frustrated are you that we took (Sony) Michel right before (Nick) Chubb and that so many dynamic RBs are found in the mid and later rounds? I just can’t believe we spent a 1st round pick on this guy who seems replacement level at this point. (@wwolf_1994)

I have to be honest and consistent. I didn’t hate the Sony Michel pick at the time, so I can’t change my tune just because he’s had a tough sophomore season. As difficult as it is to believe now, I had questions about Nick Chubb’s speed and playmaking ability heading into the draft. Now, he’s a big-play machine in Cleveland. Oops. I thought it would be Michel who would be a dynamic runner and playmaker at the NFL level. Oops. While I haven’t totally given up on Michel, he has looked less than worthy of a first-round pick this season. He deserves credit for the key role he played last year as a rookie, including the postseason. But right now, I’m ready to see rookie third-round pick Damien Harris get his chance to see if the former Alabama star can inject some life into New England’s lackluster rushing attack. Whether Michel is a bust will be decided in the coming years. Right now for the Patriots it’s all about finding a way to be a more productive offense. If Michel isn’t adding to that, then Harris should get a shot to show his stuff.

— Andy Hart

Why do you think the Pats missed on keeping a talent such as (Jacob) Hollister as TE? (@jcardozo76)

I think we’re making a little too much of Jacob Hollister because of what we’ve seen the last several weeks in Seattle. Due to injuries, Hollister has been the only healthy tight end for Russell Wilson to through to and he’s produced. In the last two games, he has 12 receptions for 99 yards and three touchdowns. Before that, in 26 NFL games he had just 13 receptions for 130 yards and no touchdowns. Injuries have also been an issue for him, as well. That ultimately was why he was traded to Seattle by New England this past April. Would Hollister have been nice to have right now? Sure. But, you really cannot blame the Patriots for moving on from him as he really didn’t make much of an impact in his two season with New England.

— Ryan Hannable 

Why hasn’t Joejuan Williams been used more? Just no spots for him on the defense or more of a redshirt year for him.? (@TuckerRossCon)

You answered your own question. As a second-round rookie Joejuan Williams has played just 4 percent of New England’s defensive snaps, playing in three games while being a healthy scratch for six others. While his unique size and skills may offer versatility to play both cornerback or safety in the future, New England has an impressive depth chart at both positions. He’s at best the fifth cornerback and the fifth safety. And many of the other depth defensive backs play significant core roles on special teams. Williams has shown some intriguing ability, including physical play at the line of scrimmage in preseason action, but the reality is that there are just too many proven, veteran talents on the Patriots’ depth chart for the young defensive back to get much of a chance. I don’t think it has anything to do with Williams’ ability or future role in Foxborough, though.

— Andy Hart

What do you feel is the biggest reason the patriots run D hasn't been great? Is it the change to 3-4 defense as there seems to be too much space for RB to run to, or just players not beating their men and hustling to the player fast enough? Or just simply not tackling better? (@Fuadnehemen)

It’s a combination of things and there’s no question the run defense hasn’t been great. We’ve been saying this even prior to the Baltimore game when the unit allowed 210 yards on the ground. It’s really been the whole year as Le’Veon Bell had his moments, so did Frank Gore and Nick Chubb and then the unit allowed a 65-yard touchdown to Steven Sims Jr. on an end-around. The issue on that given play was tackling, which was the main issue against Chubb in Week 7. Overall, the defense is allowing 99 yards on the ground per game, but 4.7 yards per carry. That is 26th in the league. This was likely a heavy focus for the defensive coaching staff during the bye and self-scouting, so perhaps we could see a change and maybe a new look beginning this Sunday in Philadelphia.

— Ryan Hannable