N’Keal Harry Plays Larger-Than-Expected Role For Patriots In NFL Debut

PHILADELPHIA — We expected N’Keal Harry to play Sunday afternoon, making his long-awaited return to the field after a half-season stay on injured reserve.

But we didn’t expect him to play quite that much.

The New England Patriots deployed Harry sporadically during the first half of their 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, using the big-bodied rookie receiver on seven snaps before halftime. He caught one 11-yard pass during that span, did a lot of run-blocking and didn’t see the field in the final eight minutes of the second quarter.

Harry also remained on the sideline as the Patriots used tempo to march 84 yards in 10 plays to open the second half, watching from afar as Julian Edelman hooked up with Phillip Dorsett on a 15-yard double pass for New England’s lone touchdown of the evening.

That play changed things in a hurry for Harry.

Dorsett suffered a concussion as he fell to the ground in the end zone, knocking him out of the game and triggering a battlefield promotion for the Patriots’ youngest wideout.

Harry entered the game for the ensuing two-point conversion, then proceeded to play every offensive snap over the Patriots’ next five possessions. He wound up logging 32 offensive snaps in all — including penalties and the two-pointer — finishing with three catches on four targets for 18 yards in his first taste of regular-season NFL action.

“It was great just to finally be out there and see what it’s like,” said Harry, who left New England’s preseason opener with a hamstring injury and hadn’t played since. “I’ve got a lot to work on, but I’m excited moving forward.”

Harry’s first pro reception came on an in-cut on second-and-10. His second came on a wide receiver screen — a route he had great success running during his college career at Arizona State — one play after Dorsett’s injury that picked up 4 yards. He later caught a hitch for 3 yards after quarterback Tom Brady ducked and scrambled to avoid a sack.

“Just routine plays that I’m supposed to make,” Harry said. “Plays that I expect myself to make. But I’ve got a lot to work on and a lot to focus on moving forward.”

The Patriots ran the ball on 11 of Harry’s snaps — including six of his first 10 — and passed on 21. The first-round draft pick did not appear to make any glaring errors, but he wasn’t prepared to offer a self-assessment when speaking with reporters postgame.

“I haven’t really looked at the film yet, so it’s hard to assess that,” Harry said. “I know there’s a lot of things I wish I could have done better during that game, so that’s just going to be my main focus moving forward.”

Ten different Patriots players caught passes in the victory, with Edelman (10 targets, five catches, 53 yards) and tight end Ben Watson (four targets, three catches, 52 yards) leading the charge.

Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com