N’Keal Harry has not made the second-year leap the New England Patriots were hoping for this season. Rischad Whitfield believes the Patriots’ change at quarterback is at least partially to blame.
Whitfield, a footwork expert who trained Harry last offseason and has worked with many other high-profile NFLers, said the 2019 first-round draft pick would be more productive if New England hadn’t replaced Tom Brady with Cam Newton.
?We?ve got a new quarterback. We?ve got to put some of that (expletive) on Cam,” Whitfield told Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire. “Cam hasn?t been the most accurate this year. Like, if (Harry) had Tom Brady, Tom Brady would?ve fed him. But we?re back there with Cam, and Cam?s getting acclimated to the offense, too.”
Whitfield added: “It?s a big deal coming from Tom Brady to Cam Newton. … That?s one of Cam Newton?s biggest issues is mechanics.”
(UPDATE: Whitfield took issue with Patriots Wire’s framing of his comments, saying he was misquoted. “I’ll never blame another man for someone’s lack of production,” he wrote on Twitter. McKenna stood by his reporting.)
Newton undeniably has struggled as a passer for the Patriots, but wide receivers Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers — both of whom entered the NFL as undrafted free agents — have been able to cobble together moderately productive seasons.
Harry trails both Byrd and Meyers in catches per game, receiving yards per game and catch percentage entering Week 15:
42 catches, 505 yards (11 games)
Catches per game: 3.8
Yards per game: 45.9
Catch percentage: 72.4 percent
42 catches, 566 yards, one touchdown (13 games)
Catches per game: 3.2
Yards per game: 43.5
Catch percentage: 62.7 percent
29 catches, 277 yards, two touchdowns (11 games)
Catches per game: 2.6
Yards per game: 25.2
Catch percentage: 59.2 percent
Harry also had issues connecting with Brady after returning from injured reserve midway through his rookie season. Over their final two games together, Harry saw 14 targets and caught just five passes for 50 yards. Perhaps that connection would have improved in Year 2, but Brady’s initial frustration might have been difficult for the young wideout to overcome.
The Patriots drafted Harry 32nd overall in 2019, ahead of wideouts like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson and Hunter Renfrow. With his second season nearly complete, the 22-year-old ranks 14th among receivers in his draft class in receiving yards per game, 11th in catches, 18th in catch percentage, 19th in yards per reception and 20th in yards per target.
It’s worth noting Harry has shown improvement of late with three impressive contested catches in New England’s last two games, but he has not caught more than five passes or surpassed 50 receiving yards since his Week 2 breakout in Seattle.
“I like Cam, but I?m not sure what happened,” Whitfield said, as quoted by Patriots Wire. “… I think next year will be better for both.”
Whether Newton will be the Patriots’ quarterback next season remains to be seen.