Hannable: N’Keal Harry’s emergence could change way Patriots wide receiver position is viewed


Welcome to the NFL, N’Keal Harry.

After totaling 12 receptions in seven games last season as a rookie, he has 13 through two games this season, including eight receptions for 72 yards Sunday night against Seattle. Additionally, he was targeted 12 times, which comes following being targeted 24 times all of last year.

It’s also worth noting Cam Newton completed three passes to him for 33 yards on the Patriots’ final drive of the game before the Patriots were stopped at the 1-yard line on the last play of the game.

The fact Newton trusted Harry on that drive proves just how far the second-year player has come and shows he can be an impact player this season.

“If he keeps on working, I think he’s going to be a really good football player,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said after the game. “He’s got to keep on keeping. You’ve got to keep working, continually try to improve each week. He’s grown up a lot this year I feel becoming a professional. Going in, getting his work in, playing multiple positions. He’s doing well in the run game. He’s doing well in the pass game.”

While it’s just two games, there’s no question Harry has shown more promise this season and he will only get better. After all, he’s only played in nine NFL games and he seems to have the quarterback in his corner.

“[He] has grown in front of everyone’s eyes,” Newton said. “For him to gain confidence in himself, I think that’s a start. And I think that’s what he’s doing. I think today’s game was a great indication of that and what he could potentially be. Yet through it all, he still has to keep building to become the best version of himself.”

The Patriots were in search of a player to step up and be a solid No. 2 option in the passing game behind Edelman and Harry is making progress towards proving he can be that guy.

It appears he has a different attitude from a year ago and clearly has the athleticism to be able to make plays in a variety of roles. Yes, it’s just two games, but he’s on pace to have 104 catches and 888 yards. That would be a very, very productive season and be the WR2 the team is seeking.

With that being said, Harry’s emergence isn’t totally changing the fact the team still needs to add another wide receiver if they want to compete with some of the NFL’s best.

They are still a wide receiver short. Damiere Byrd had a good second game after not being targeted in Week 1, but it’s hard to imagine him ever being a real impact player. Same with Jakobi Meyers. Role players, but not impact players.

Another reason why an additional pass catcher is needed is the lack of impact from rookie tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. Keene hasn’t been active, and then Asiasi has played sparingly, but doesn’t even have a target.

While the need for a stud — Odell Beckham Jr. or Allen Robinson — may not be as urgent as it was after Week 1, there’s no doubt another receiver is needed. Edelman and Harry are not enough to carry an offense, especially when Edelman is 34 years old and his body takes a constant beating each and every week.

Harry showing signs of promise and having the support of Newton is a great development for the offense, but it still doesn’t totally change the way the wide receiver position should be viewed.

Some help is still needed.