Josh Gordon’s reinstatement doesn’t just help the New England Patriots’ offense – it should also help in the development of receiver N’Keal Harry too.
On the surface, Josh Gordon’s NFL reinstatement on Friday doesn’t seem like it would benefit N’Keal Harry. Both men play wide receiver, both are most dangerous along the sidelines as vertical, field-stretching threats, and both have similar physical compositions (Gordon is 6’3 and 225 lbs, Harry is 6’4 and 225 lbs).
Upon deeper analysis though, Gordon’s return might provide Harry just the kind of mentorship he needs in learning to maximize his own gifts and abilities.
To be clear – and this is meant not to disparage Gordon – that mentorship doesn’t mean that Harry should see Gordon as a role model to look up to or try and emulate from a character perspective. Obviously Gordon’s struggles with addiction and substance abuse are extremely well-documented at this point, and if anything, they should remain more of a cautionary tale about making intelligent, healthy choices when it comes to living life outside of football as a well-paid celebrity athlete.
From a physical and purely sports-based standpoint, though, Harry could learn a lot from Gordon. When he’s healthy, active, and not currently suspended, Gordon has the upside of one of the top 10 receivers in all the NFL.
People forget that in the first 30 games of his career as a pro, Gordon caught 137 passes for 2,451 yards and 14 touchdowns… for the Cleveland Browns. His quarterbacks at the time were Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, too. (For whatever this is worth, he also had backup Patriots QB Brian Hoyer slinging him the ball for a couple games in 2013.)
Just as Harry spent time working on his route-running with Julian Edelman earlier this summer, he now will have the opportunity to practice with Gordon once the reinstatement officially begins this Sunday. Before Gordon’s return, the closest player to Harry’s size and skill-set on the New England receiving squad was Demaryius Thomas… and Thomas obviously hasn’t been active or practicing this preseason while he continues to rehab a torn Achilles.
Most football mind wills agree that the smartest rookies are the ones who come into the NFL with their chin down, their eyes wide, and their mouths shut. They know that everything they did before in college and in high school only served them up until this point and now no further – it got them drafted and gave them an opportunity to make it in the NFL, but that’s about it.
Whether or not they have a lengthy and successful career as a professional football player is entirely up to what they do now, every single day, both on and off the field, from now until (hopefully) February.
Given New England’s spotty track record at drafting outside wide receivers, Harry faces historically long-odds to make a major impact in the Patriots offense. So far though, he’s said and done the right things, even if his injury in Week 1 of the preseason comes at an inconvenient time.
Having Gordon as another potential teacher in the receivers room now should only make Harry better in the long run, especially if he can soak up some of Gordon’s tricks and techniques like a sponge, and then translate them into his own game.