N'Keal Harry Working Towards a Breakout Sophomore Season
What will the New England Patriots' offense look like next season? This is perhaps one of the biggest questions many are asking in regards to what has been the most dominant team of the last two decades.
Tom Brady is gone, their receivers are getting older, and there is a lot of new, inexperienced talent. So the outlook for what's ahead isn't exactly bright in New England.
Enter, N’Keal Harry.
The 2019 first-round draft pick didn’t have the rookie season that was predicted for him. Plagued with injuries, he only played in seven games last year, and recorded 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver demonstrated that he has an amazing skill to catch the ball while at Arizona State, but clearly needs some work to perform at a high level in the NFL.
In February, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was asked what causes rookie wideouts to struggle in the NFL. Here is one of the reasons he mentioned:
“The lack of quality press coverage in college football," Mayock said, via Raiders.com. "When you’ve got a grown man trying to keep you from getting off the line of scrimmage that’s competent, long and tough, that’s a different issue.”
Beating man coverage and getting separation from defensive backs are some of the main things Harry struggled with in his rookie season, which is why offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had to be very creative in order to get Harry in space with the ball in his hands. But with a season under his belt and a better idea of what he needs to do to contribute to the team, Harry has been putting in work to improve his acceleration and footwork, which will help him improve in those categories he struggled with during his rookie year.
NFL media’s Mike Giardi said that Harry is working with Rischad Whitfield in Houston, who is also known as the "Footwork King."
“Whitfield feels like (Harry) plays too slow,” Giardi said. “He sinks his hips, he gets low to the ground and that puts him in quicksand and slows him down. So, what they’re trying to do is work on functional mobility, maybe less time in the weight room. Trying to get him better off a release, better off the top of the route. And of course, be quicker.”
Here are clips from Whitfield's Twitter page of him working with Harry:
This is promising news for the Patriots and fans seeking to usher in a new era post-Brady. With Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu on the backend of their careers, all eyes will be on N'Keal Harry to be a prominent part of the passing game moving forward, as New England invested significant draft capital in him last year and are expecting him to perform much better in his sophomore campaign compared to his rookie season.