Herm Edwards details why N'Keal Harry should thrive in second Patriots season

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston

Tom Brady's departure makes the New England Patriots a worse team in 2020. There could be a silver lining in Brady's exit for wide receiver N'Keal Harry, though.

Harry battled injuries and inconsistency during his rookie campaign, catching just 12 passes from Brady for 105 yards and two touchdowns in seven games played.

Now, the 2019 first-round pick out of Arizona State must develop a rapport with a new quarterback in fellow sophomore Jarrett Stidham.

Harry's college coach believes that's a good thing.

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"Knowing N'Keal, he has gained some confidence with the experience that he had," Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards told USA TODAY's Henry McKenna. "I think he'll enjoy (the increased pressure). He kind of loves that. That's the competitiveness in him.

" ... He knows right now he has a window to grow up with this quarterback that they have (in Stidham), because the quarterback doesn't have a lot of experience either."

Stidham got some preseason run last summer but attempted just four regular-season passes during his rookie campaign, so he's essentially coming into 2020 with a clean slate.

That means Harry has the opportunity to become one of Stidham's "go-to" guys -- a role he excelled in at the college level, according to Edwards.

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"It's the trust factor. When a quarterback is under duress and he's got to make a decision, who does he trust?" Edwards said. "Who is he going to trust when the pocket collapses and he steps his way out? Those are the things that N'Keal understands.

"That's what he had here with (ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins). And that's the conversation I had with Manny: 'When it all breaks down, just look for 1 (Harry's jersey number). He's going to bail us out.' That's what quarterbacks want to know. Who's going to bail me out?"

Julian Edelman was Brady's top "bail-out" guy last season and might keep that role in 2020 as the Patriots' No. 1 receiver.

But Edelman is the only returning wideout with at least one full year of experience in New England: Mohamed Sanu arrived in 2019 via midseason trade, while second-years Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski and newcomers Marqise Lee, Damiere Byrd and Devin Ross round out an unproven wide receiver group.

That sounds like a perfect situation for Harry to capitalize on, and apparently he's trying: The 22-year-old was going over the Patriots' passing script with Stidham back in early April and was plotting a socially-distanced meetup with his QB amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If Harry can prove his college coach right, he'll go a long way in helping Stidham fill Brady's massive shoes.

Herm Edwards details why N'Keal Harry should thrive in second Patriots season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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