Patriots

Tom Brady says he loves Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry's 'edge' and 'tenacity'

Tom Brady says he loves Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry's 'edge' and 'tenacity'

FOXBORO — Members of the media have heard very little from N'Keal Harry since he was placed on injured reserve at the start of the season. He expressed hope that he'd be able to play prior to his team's Week 9 game in Baltimore two weeks ago. Other than that ... silence. 

From his teammates, though, we've been provided a little more detail as to how things are going with the first-round rookie from Arizona State. 

“I think he continues to get better," Devin McCourty told WEEI's Dale & Keefe program last week. "One of the things he does a really good job of is playing hard in practice. He at times, he pisses off the DBs because he works his butt off — out there blocking, out there getting open. I think that is the good thing about seeing him out there running around.

"It’s hard. When you’re a young guy and you’re a rookie and you miss that much time, you come out there and it’s everything in your game you have to work on. I think as an older guy, that has been exciting to see him there every day after practice just getting work in. He’s doing his best to try and get back out there.”

To hear that Harry is pissing off others on the practice field isn't all that surprising. He's an emotional practice player. That's something we saw all the way back in June. It's something his college coaches appreciated about him when he was with the Sun Devils. 

"N'Keal's very competitive," Arizona State receivers coach Charlie Fisher told The Next Pats Podcast earlier this offseason. "He looks to do good. He gets pissed if he doesn't do it good in practice. Like all great players, he wants to do it good. He takes great pride in trying to do whatever it is your trying to teach him, and he tries to do a good job with it."

On Wednesday — joining WEEI's Christian Fauria during Fauria's 25 consecutive hours on air to raise money and awareness for the American Diabetes Foundation — Tom Brady spoke to Harry's effort on the practice field. While Brady was reluctant to sing Harry's praises ahead of the Ravens game, which he explained, he was willing to laud Harry's "edge" on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. 

“I think with our team, what I think we’ve done over the years is we’ve not projected expectations for people that put them in an unfair position that people are expecting things that, you know, are not in my control,” Brady said. “If you want to ask someone like N’Keal how he feels he’s doing, you should ask him. To ask me, and then put unfair expectations on a younger player, I don’t think that is helpful at all. It is really up to each individual player. 

"It's not just N’Keal because I like N’Keal a lot. Everybody’s role is earned and I think that's the mark of the Patriots and that's part of the culture — you have to come out here and you have to earn a spot and earn a role. You do that through practice, earning the trust of your teammates and your coaches that you can be talented when the moments are their biggest."

Brady added: "Unfortunately for N’Keal, he got hurt early in training camp. He didn’t have the development when other guys were practicing for over two months. He’s working hard. He’s extremely hard-working. He wants to do it. He’s got a great edge about him. I really love that. I really love his tenacity and he’s learning every day, and he’s working hard to get better. I think that is all you can ask of a younger player.”

The Patriots could ask for more from Harry on Sunday, when he'll have an opportunity to be in uniform for his first game as a pro. Will the Patriots activate him, though? 

If part of the reason Harry was inactive in Baltimore was because of the game plan — Josh McDaniels wanted to use the hurry-up, which experienced players might have an easier time executing — then perhaps he'll have a reduced (or non-existent) role in Philadelphia if that's the plan once again. The Patriots were relatively effective with their fast-paced offense that day despite falling short on the scoreboard. 

But activating Harry would give the Patriots a big-bodied red-zone target — something they could use as they're throwing in the red zone more often lately yet still only succeeding on half of their red zone attempts for the year. Harry might also help the team's No. 27 ranking when it comes to success rate on goal-to-go passing scenarios. 

The Eagles secondary is also generally a juicy matchup for opposing receivers. Their corner group has struggled at different points this season and they're 25th in the NFL in yards allowed per attempt to receivers (8.9). 

Seems like it could be a good time to allow Harry to take that practice demeanor his teammates have noticed out to the game field. 

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE TO TOM E. CURRAN'S PATRIOTS TALK PODCAST:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

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.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

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. 

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

"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.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

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.