N'Keal Harry is going to be an important player for the New England Patriots if they reach their true potential during the 2020 NFL season.
The Patriots selected him at the end of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has the size, strength and skill to be a really good wide receiver at the pro level. Unfortunately for Harry, he didn't get the desired amount of reps and experience in the 2019 preseason and regular season due to injuries.
He played in only seven regular season games and tallied 12 receptions (on 24 targets) for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
This year's training camp is especially critical to Harry. Not only is it a tremendous opportunity for him to build chemistry with his new teammates and improve his own skills, there are no preseason games in 2020, so these practice reps are even more important than usual.
What type of development and growth has Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seen from Harry entering into his sophomore season?
"Well, as I’ve said a couple times this summer, I think our players in their second year have all made a significant jump of growth in their knowledge, both of our system and what they see on the other side from other teams in the league and our opponents and general maturity into professional football. They all fall into that category, and that’s certainly the case from N’Keal, as well," Belichick said in a video press conference before Friday's training camp practice.
"He’s much more comfortable, has a much better understanding this year than what he did last year. He’s been productive for us on the field. He still has a lot of football in front of him and a lot of growth and he works hard every day.
"He’s a physical, tough kid that likes to compete. You can see his competitiveness out there on the field and that allows him to get better. And with his work ethic and toughness and competitiveness, I think those are all good qualities for players to improve and that’s really where all players are in their second year. They’re not where they’re going to be, they’re on the way up, and if they work hard and continue to work on the skills and techniques of their craft, they’ll be able to get closer to achieve their potential."
Patriots wide receivers were hit hard by injuries in 2019. Harry, Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu all had their performance impacted by injuries, and it was among the reasons why New England's offense was less productive in the second half of the season compared to the first half.
If the Patriots offense is going to be a high-scoring unit in 2020, the wide receivers not only need to stay healthy, but also one of the younger players in this group must step up and become a dependable target. Harry, as a first-round talent, is the player who should take this step.