Julian Edelman impressed with how N'Keal Harry is navigating learning curve

Julian Edelman impressed with how N'Keal Harry is navigating learning curve

FOXBORO – Having come up the hard way in the NFL, Julian Edelman’s personality is hardwired to be impatient with the silver spoon set.

So imagine him sizing up a first-round pick from a power conference that looks to be carved from the Creator’s personal stash of granite. Twelve years younger and in town to take targets away.

I’d figure Edelman for a squint, a sniff and a disdainful release of tobacco juice in the dirt near his feet.

But that isn’t what N’Keal Harry’s getting. On Wednesday, I asked Edelman what he thought of the Patriots first-rounder and Edelman indicated what has become obvious since Harry got here: Harry A) takes things very seriously, B) happily brings physicality to the spot and C) is built like a brick outhouse.

“He’s a big kid and he works hard,” Edelman said after the second of three minicamp practices this week. “We’re gonna need him to play well. We’re gonna need everyone to play well.

“It’s tough to play receiver here but he’s doing a good job at that by not making the same mistakes,” Edelman added. “I’m not a coach but I like his attitude. I like his body. He’s got a big body… got some nice abs too… hopefully he comes in and can help right away.”

The abs aren’t window dressing. The body control Harry’s shown during these practices (and at Arizona State) has been impressive. On Wednesday, he elevated to pluck a highly-thrown Brian Hoyer pass with one hand and fell to the ground in the end zone. On Tuesday, he reached back to tip a ball to himself while running a skinny post.  

It hasn’t all been highlights, though. Harry’s been targeted repeatedly by Tom Brady and the other Patriots quarterbacks and there have been missed connections and frequent pointers given by coaches. There’s a lot of information flying at him and pressure to retain it.

I asked Edelman about negotiating the mental aspect of letting go of mistakes.

“That’s the ebbs and flows of being new in an environment, especially for a rookie,” he said. “There’s gonna be bad days, there’s gonna be good days, there’s gonna be days where you don’t do anything. When I was a rookie, there was a guy by the name of Fred Taylor (a former Patriots running back who was most productive with the Jaguars), I’d get a ride from him at the Residence Inn (Foxboro) in his Range Rover and he’d say, ‘Rook, it’s a roller coaster. You gotta ride that ride and keep it level-minded.’ “

Taylor and teammates like Matt Slater and Rob Ninkovich had Edelman’s back. Edelman wasn’t as impressed with the guy he was in closer competition with, Wes Welker. Edelman wants to be a little more giving with his advice.

“You’ll have teammates that help you and I had teammates that didn’t,” Edelman acknowledged.

“I like to be known as a teammate that would help you,” he explained. “I like to give little pointers here and there because the better we all are, the better we are as a team. I like going out and trying to give information if they want information and go from there. Part of the job, I guess.”

For Harry, the job right now is to learn, retain, perform and do it all again. Edelman doesn’t sound worried that due diligence will be done.  

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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.