Watch CBS News

N'Keal Harry Ignoring Outside Noise, Says His Confidence Is Growing Every Week

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- As Patriots fans continued to lose faith in N'Keal Harry this season, quarterback Cam Newton remained upbeat about the second-year receiver. His confidence in the 22-year-old paid off Sunday afternoon, as the two connected on their first touchdown of the season.

With the Patriots already sporting a 28-0 lead over the Los Angeles Chargers and looking to add to that advantage in the red area, Newton fired a bullet into the end zone. The pass may have been intended for rookie Dalton Keene, who ran a slant to the back of the end zone, but Harry outmuscled his defender and showed off some great hands to pluck Newton's rocket pass out of the air for six points.

It's the kind of touchdown reception that we've been expecting the 6-foot-4 Harry to make after the Patriots drafted him in the first round last year. But it's just his second touchdown of the season and fourth overall for his career.

Touted as a potential red zone playmaker coming out of Arizona State, we'd like to see a lot more of that from Harry going forward.

"I just tried to get in front of him, be a big body and get Cam a target," the receiver said after New England's 45-0 victory. "That was a play that was all about physicality and using my body. It was vital for that play."

Newton was thrilled to see Harry come down with the touchdown, pouncing on the receiver's back to celebrate the score.

"I almost fell. I had to kind of hold my base for a second there," said Harry.

While he nearly knocked him down on Sunday, Newton has been doing everything he can to keep Harry propped up throughout the young receiver's struggles. Newton sees light at the end of the tunnel for Harry, which is good news for the New England offense.

"Say what you want, it's just a way for him to get his confidence up with a big play on his part," Newton said. "I wouldn't say it was the best pass, but for him to play as big as he has been playing, I think we're going to need that moving forward more than ever."

We've seen Harry display his pass-catching abilities sporadically, so now it's up to him to get a lot more consistent with his impact. He finished Sunday's game with just two receptions for 15 yards off three targets, which isn't the kind of line you expect from a former first-round selection. He followed up a five-catch afternoon in Houston two weeks ago with a zero-catch (off two targets) performance last week against Arizona. He's had three games this season where he hasn't caught a pass.

That ineffectiveness, along with injuries that have cost him a chunk of playing time, have many placing the "bust" tag on Harry. It's especially frustrating to see other receivers from his draft class performing at such a high level, with Seattle's D.K. Metcalf and Tennessee's A.J. Brown -- both of whom were drafted after Harry -- making a much bigger impact on their respective teams. It has left Patriots fans wondering what could have been had Bill Belichick used the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on someone other than Harry.

To his credit, Harry is blocking out all of that outside noise and focusing on what he has to do on the field.

"I feel like as long as I'm doing everything I can possibly do to prove and to become the best player I can be, I don't worry about any of that," he said. "My confidence has been growing. Regardless of all the noise going outside the building, I've been getting more confident week by week. None of that fazes me at all."

And that confidence is just growing the more Harry integrates himself into the New England offense.

"My confidence has been getting better week-by-week. There's been nothing wrong with my confidence," he said. "I'm just glad I was able to contribute today to get the win."

In his 10 games this season, Harry has 26 receptions on 45 targets for 228 yards and those two touchdowns.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.