Sports Q

Sports Q: Have the Patriots underused N’Keal Harry?

Throwing him the ball? That would have been a fine plan if the goal was to go three-and-out in the most annoying fashion possible.

Tennessee's Adoree' Jackson breaks up a pass intended for N'Keal Harry during a Jan. 4, 2020 playoff game. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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Have the Patriots underused N’Keal Harry?

Allow me to try to look at this rationally before getting to the absurdity of the statement from Harry’s agent, Jamal Tooson, to the NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo today revealing he’d asked the Patriots to deal his client.

There were times during the past two seasons when I thought the Patriots should have tried to involve Harry more. Not necessarily as a wide receiver, mind you, but as someone taking handoffs and short passes out of the backfield, kind of like how they utilized Cordarelle Patterson in 2018. Harry is a truck, and he’s pretty tough to tackle once the ball is in his hands. He could have benefited somewhat from pointed attempts to keep him involved.

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But throwing him the ball? That would have been a fine plan if the goal was to go three-and-out in the most annoying fashion possible. Harry couldn’t get open, couldn’t be counted on to be in the right spot, couldn’t be relied upon to make wise decisions when he did catch the ball, and had a hard time staying healthy.

Yeah, I’m writing about him in the past tense. The only reason to keep him on the team at this point is spite.

And yet the Patriots still started him 14 times in the 21 games he was healthy since being a first-round pick in 2019. He got his chances, more than his play merited, and his agent’s statement implying he was underused (“he has 86 targets”) and citing his college accomplishments (“unstoppable at the point of attack in college”) suggests some serious delusions about what he is as an NFL player.

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Those 86 targets? They came in 804 snaps. He didn’t get the ball because he wasn’t trustworthy and probably had no separation.

Oh, and almost every NFL player was a star or superstar in college. You throw away the letter jacket when you get to the league and go about proving yourself again. Especially in New England.

It’s offensive that Tooson suggests Harry didn’t get chances. “N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity,’’ he wrote. And if you don’t get one right away – which Harry did, before hurting his hamstring as a rookie – you know what you do? You create one for yourself. Like Jakobi Meyers has.

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Maybe the Patriots will be able to trade him. Can an NFL team make trades with the CFL? I suppose Harry, the 32d pick in the draft just two years ago, might get some mild interest around the league, though any team considering him might prefer to wait until the Patriots cut him. He’s gone one way or the other. And when it happens, he’ll be right there with Chad Jackson as the worst wide receiver draft pick in franchise history. (I still say Bethel Johnson wasn’t a bust.)

What does everyone else think? Did N’Keal Harry deserve more of a chance? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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