Could a N'Keal Harry-Dez Bryant Combo Solve the Patriots' Red Zone Woes?
One area of the offense that lacked in the first nine games of the regular season for the New England Patriots was red zone production.
With a banged up offensive line, a poor run game, and no big-bodied receivers that Tom Brady can throw too outside the numbers or over a defender, the Patriots averaged 4.38 points per red zone appearance, which ranks 22nd in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.
Now, while the return of rookie receiver N'Keal Harry, who is 6-foot-4, 225 lbs, could give Tom Brady the big-bodied pass catcher he needs in the red zone, and the return of offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn could bolster a pedestrian run game, will those two players single handedly fix the team's red zone woes?
The verdict if still out on Harry, as we haven't even seen him play a regular season snap yet. The sample size for Wynn is very small, as we've only seen him play in two regular season games. So it's hard to assume the answer to that question is a surefire yes.
However, adding a third offensive piece to their roster could give New England the definitive boost they need to come away with more points when they are inside the opponent's 20 yard line.
Earlier this week, 31-year-old receiver Dez Bryant took to Twitter to let everyone know that he's "feeling good" and that he will reach out to teams in two weeks to see if they would like to make use of his services. He also said that he's "not trying to go nowhere and be a starter on a team I want to contribute because I know I will be able to..."
Could Bryant be a situational piece for the Patriots?
Look - there's a reason that Bryant has been out of the league for two years. I get that. But if he played a limited role, he could be a key piece to New England's red zone offense.
Let's take a look at Bryant's red zone stats from the last time he played a full season of football.
In 2017, Bryant was tied for the 4th-most targets (20) inside the opponent's 20 yard line by a pass-catcher in the NFL. He turned those 20 targets into 11 receptions and five touchdowns. Inside the 10 yard line, Bryant caught 4-of-10 targets and had three touchdowns. He had six touchdowns that season, which means all but one of them came inside the red zone.
With Bryant on one side of the formation, N'Keal Harry opposite of him, Julian Edelman in the slot, throw in Mohamed Sanu on either side depending on the situation, and all of a sudden the options for Brady to throw the ball become much more diverse in the red zone. Then you add a run game that could improve at the very least slightly with the return of Wynn, and New England's red zone efficiency would more than likely increase given their standing in that category.
There's a lot more to unpack with Bryant, like his overall health, his attitude, and how much money he would be looking for. But if he's willing to take a discount in order to try and win a championship, the Patriots should consider signing one of the all-time great Dallas Cowboys receivers.