Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry made a career high eight catches Sunday in New England’s 35-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The wide receiver position was one of the areas that had a question mark next to it for the New England Patriots entering the season.

It was not a strong point during Tom Brady’s final year in New England, and after Phillip Dorsett left via free agency and Mohamed Sanu was waived earlier in preseason, the position was weakened further.

Julian Edelman remains the No. 1 receiver. The Patriots are hoping help comes on a consistent basis from N’Keal Harry, who played just seven games as a rookie because of an ankle injury, and Damiere Byrd, who signed as a free agent.

In Sunday night’s 35-30 loss to the Seattle Seahwaks, Harry and Byrd combined to make 14 catches for 144 yards, helping Cam Newton throw for the third-highest yardage total in his career (397).

Those two, along with Edelman (eight catches for 179 yards) and second-year player Jakobi Meyers (26 catches a year ago) make up Newton’s main four targets at wide receiver.

For Harry, a first-round pick who was hurt in the summer of 2019 and didn’t make his debut until Nov. 17, it has been a good start to his second season.

Harry had 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns last year, and already has 13 receptions for 111 yards this season. He has found a huge booster in Newton, who is definitely in his corner, after it appeared that Brady was frustrated with the rookie last year.

Being on the sideline for so long in his first year was a setback for Harry, who was ready to go when camp opened this summer.

“When it comes to wanting me to succeed, I think Tom wanted me to succeed just as much (as Newton),” said Harry. “It’s just hard trying to compare. I feel as a rookie was a lot harder for me to try and grasp the offense, missing half the season and just getting thrown in there like that. It is helpful having Cam guide me along everything that is going on.”

Harry, who made eight catches for 72 yards against the Seahawks, was a main target on the game’s final drive. He caught passes for 13, 17 and 12 yards, the last one bringing the ball to the Seattle 1, before Newton was stopped as time ran out.

“It means a lot,” Harry said of getting the call in crunch time. “To me, it means he trusts me in a critical situation and that’s all I can ask for as a receiver, and it’s my job to help him gain confidence in me, not only throughout the game but the season as well.”

Newton, when asked if the Patriots need to shore up the receiver position via a trade, said in an interview on WEEI radio that “the answers are in that locker room.”

“It’s good to have trust from my quarterback,” said Harry. “At the end of the day as receivers, we just want to make him as comfortable as possible when he drops back when he has faith in every single one us that he can trust us to come down with the ball. So it’s really encouraging.”

Byrd, who played for the Arizona Cardinals last season, began his career with Newton. They were teammates with the Carolina Panthers from 2016-18 after Byrd made the team as an undrafted free agent.

In 17 games with Newton, Byrd made 12 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He had 32 catches for 359 yards in one season with the Cardinals.
Newton and Byrd connected six times for 72 yards against the Seahawks after Byrd did not have any passes thrown his way in the opener against the Miami Dolphins.

“Being a receiver, you don’t know what the day is going to be like,” said Byrd. “Sometimes you get zero targets, sometimes you get nine or 10, or somewhere in between. You lock in on the game plan and try to do your assignment every play.

“It’s always good to be involved the game and help the team put us in a position to extend drives and try to get in the end zone. We knew going into the game we would get those type of opportunities, and it was being able to capitalize on it.”

Byrd said his familiarity with Newton from their days in Carolina has helped him in a new setting.

“I think me and Cam have a great chemistry,” said Byrd. “Obviously being together for so long in Carolina, it kind of comes naturally. We still are learning each other within this offense and that will allow us to continue to get better.

“His confidence is just contagious. The energy that he brings always uplifts everyone. I’ll tell you, Cam hasn’t changed since the day I met him. He’s been the same guy, day in and day out. He’s accepting of every person on the team. He’s very in tune with his teammates trying to bring everybody together. That definitely helps younger players finding their way.”

AFTER TWO WEEKS, the Patriots hold the distinction of being the least penalized team in the NFL.

The team that’s second best? Sunday’s opponent, the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Patriots have been assessed five penalties, all on the defense, with three pass interference calls and two holding infractions.

The offense, meanwhile, has been clean, which is remarkable considering there’s a new quarterback at the helm and there were no preseason games.

“Our goal every week is to play penalty-free,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “Unless it’s an intentional penalty, delay of game, or something like that for a specific reason, then we always try to play penalty-free. It’s always good when we hit that goal.

“Realistically, that’s not something we can accomplish for an entire season,” he went on, “but on a weekly basis, that’s always something we try to achieve. It takes discipline, good technique, good fundamentals, good judgment and decision-making on the field. So we’ve had a good amount of that.”

The Raiders have been assessed six penalties in the opening two games.

As a comparison, the Arizona Cardinals are the most-penalized team with 20 penalties.

THE PATRIOTS were missing a pair of offensive captains – James White and David Andrews – at the start of practice Wednesday. White lost his father, Tyrone, in a car accident on Sunday afternoon. His mother, Lisa, was still reportedly in critical condition on Tuesday.

White posted a touching tribute to his father, while also recognizing his son’s first birthday.

“Happy 1st birthday Xzavier! I hope I can be as good of a father to you as my father was to my brother and I! I still can’t quite process everything that’s going on right now but when I look at you, you give me life! May you Rest In Peace Dad, we miss you much already.”=

Andrews’ absence came as a surprise, as the center didn’t appear on the injury report last week, nor did he appear to suffer an obvious injury in Sunday’s loss at Seattle.

Rookie Josh Uche (ankle) was back in action after missing Friday’s practice.

 


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