A promising start, but plenty of room for improvement.
That’s how both New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels viewed rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry’s long-awaited NFL debut, which finally came Sunday in a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I thought N’Keal competed well,” Belichick said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “There were some good things; there were some other things that we’ll have to clean up and he’ll improve on. But it’s good to have him out there, good for him to get an opportunity to play. But there’s certainly a lot of things that he can learn from that game and improve on, which we all can, but especially for his first regular-season game. There were some positive things and there were some corrections, too.”
Thrust into a larger role after a concussion knocked fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett out of the game early in the second half, Harry played 32 offensive snaps against the Eagles, catching three passes on four targets for 18 yards. He also showed tenacity as a run blocker and logged snaps as a rusher on the Patriots’ punt return team.
It was the first-round draft pick’s first taste of game action since New England’s preseason opener, during which Harry played just three snaps before suffering a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve, sidelining him for the first half of his rookie season.
McDaniels spoke at length about the 21-year-old wideout during his weekly conference call.
“It was good to get him out there and into the game,” the coach said Tuesday morning. “I thought he was ready to play. He had a good week of practice last week. In any rookie’s first opportunity to play in the National Football League, there’s probably going to be some good and then some things to work on and that you learn from those experiences in the game. There’s no way you can simulate that in practice or walkthroughs or what have you, so to go in there in a game and compete against other players in that type of situation under pressure, I think it’s a great experience and great exposure for him.
“He made a few catches for us and helped us move the ball. He tried to block in the running game effectively and did a decent job there, and at the same time, there’s definitely things that we’ve been able to see through the film that we’ll improve on and he’ll work towards being better at as we go forward. Every rookie starts at the same spot when you’re going out there for your first time — you’re excited to play, you’re eager to go out there and help your team make an impact. I thought he did some good things, and there’s definitely some things that we’ll be able to work on going forward to make N’Keal a better player and help our offense even more.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images