N’Keal Harry, for as frustrating as he has been in his young NFL career, occasionally has displayed the talent and size that made him a first-round pick.
The New England Patriots wide receiver had arguably the best game of his young career Thursday night, a lone bright spot in the Patriots’ blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams. For one of the first and only times in his career, the Patriots looked to be properly using the large wideout.
Harry has had obvious problems with his own game, but how much of his lack of production can be attributed to quarterback Cam Newton’s struggles?
Patriots radio broadcaster and midday host Scott Zolak on Friday revealed he reached out to “two people,” presumably in the know, to ask them about Newton and why the Patriots don’t use Harry differently.
Specifically, Zolak wondered why Harry wasn’t used more in jump-ball or fade situations down around the goal line. Two of Harry’s four career touchdowns came on that sort of play, highlighted by a gorgeous scoring grab earlier this season against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I made two calls this morning. I talked to two people about Cam Newton,” Zolak said Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “Why can’t you put N’Keal Harry — when you’re down around the 10 or the 9 — why can’t you have Harry come in, cut a split down and run a fade like you did against Kansas City? That’s his pass, right? ? He’ll go up and get the ball. That’s one thing he can do. Both people told me, Cam’s ball when it comes out, the wind-up, there’s no arc on short balls. It’s too flat.”
Going back to that touchdown in Kansas City, you might recall that pass actually was thrown by Jarrett Stidham, not Newton, who was sitting out after testing positive for COVID-19.
It’s not earth-shattering observations made by Zolak’s “sources,” but it does sort of underscore the issues Newton is having running the Patriots’ passing offense. Or, put another, it underscores why New England doesn’t really have a passing offense to speak of. Newton has passed for a total of 272 yards over the last three games.
Not for nothing, the Patriots sure could have used a different look down by the goal line when they were stuffed on four straight runs inside LA’s 6-yard line Thursday night.
The Harry dynamic alone is the sort of thing that might make a quarterback change worth it for the Patriots. Not only would you get to see what you have in Stidham, it might also give you a chance to turn Harry loose. At the very least, maybe the pieces fit a little better.