Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels says he needs to find more ways to effectively utilize rookie N’Keal Harry.
“I think he has a skill set that can certainly help us produce and win,’’ McDaniels said Tuesday morning in a conference call. “I need to do a better job of trying to find a way to get him the ball and get him involved so that he can do some of those things and do more of them.’’
Since returning from injured reserve, Harry’s stat line has been relatively quiet. In four games, he’s totaled five catches on 10 targets for 40 yards. Harry scored a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12 on a pretty back-shoulder grab — and should have had another against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday had officials not incorrectly ruled him out of bounds before he dived into the end zone.
McDaniels praised Harry’s effort on that play, one where the 21-year-old receiver displayed his speed and physicality by breaking multiple tackles. At 6 feet 4 inches and 225 pounds, Harry should be able to impose his frame both vertically and after the catch.
“He’s a big guy,’’ McDaniels said. “He’s not easy to get to the ground.’’
To take advantage of Harry’s size and strength, McDaniels said he needs to do a better job of getting him the football in situations where his skill set can shine.
McDaniels acknowledged there’s only so many times he can call a play that involves throwing the ball to a player behind the line of scrimmage or handing the ball off to a player that’s not a running back. But he aims to be more creative to maximize Harry’s abilities.
“When you have players like that, it comes back to how can you get him the football in those situations,’’ McDaniels said. “Whatever those are — slants, unders, etc. — those plays are all productive plays when you have a guy that can do something with it.’’
McDaniels noted Harry’s role in the offense has already evolved because his understanding of the system has improved since he first rejoined the offense. As the Patriots continue to search for an offensive rhythm, McDaniels expressed hope that his play design coupled with Harry’s work ethic can facilitate increased production.
“The communication is much easier,’’ McDaniels said. “He works his butt off every day in practice. He’s here early, he’s here late, and he’s trying to close the ground on being able to go out there and understand who he’s playing against and what he needs to do to be successful.’’
A Brown backer
Walking into Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon will carry some sentimental value for coach Bill Belichick.
Home of the Cincinnati Bengals, the 19-year-old stadium is named after late founder Paul Brown, who, prior to starting the franchise, was a longtime football coach that Belichick deeply admired.
“He’s probably the professional coach I’ve probably looked up to more than any other, just in terms of the contributions he’s made to the game, the professional way he did things, and the way he was able to adapt and be innovative and creative to find ways to win,’’ Belichick said Tuesday during a conference call.
Belichick said he had a chance to meet Brown and cherished the opportunity to learn from him as well as others in his circle. He noted his father, Steve, was also close with Brown.
“There’s just a lot of ripple effects there that I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience,’’ Belichick said. “I don’t think the game would be what it is today without his contributions.’’
He’s an NFL fan
Defensive line coach Bret Bielema is enjoying life in the NFL after spending more than two decades coaching at the college level.
“The thing that I realize every day is I love this profession,’’ Bielema said. “Early on, I was at a Chinese restaurant, I got a fortune cookie that said, ‘Confucius says, do the job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ and that’s exactly how I feel.’’
Bielema, 49, joined Belichick’s staff as a consultant last season and was officially named defensive line coach when Brendan Daly left for the Chiefs. Prior to New England, Bielema was head coach for seven seasons at Wisconsin and five at Arkansas.
While he didn’t close the door on returning to the college level, noting he’s “gathered some interest,’’ Bielema expressed the utmost appreciation for the opportunity to work with Belichick.
“Whenever that opportunity comes again, it will be great, but I’m just enjoying the moment, going to work every day and learning from one of the best that’s ever coached this game,’’ Bielema said. “It’s truly a blessing.’’