New England Patriots: Maurice Harris Brings a Unique Skill-Set

Maurice Harris is ready to show what he is capable of in a weak receiving group in New England.

One day after the 2019 Free Agency period began, the New England Patriots joined in on the frenzy, making a trio of signings. Even though none of the three are superstar signees that will change the face of the team, there is still reason to be intrigued by the prospects. Maurice Harris, a large frame receiver who was formerly with the Redskins, is ready to invigorate his career with the help of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Harris spent four years at California where he served as a possession receiver. He is a fluid route runner with average speed for his size (Harris runs a 4.56 40-yard dash). Still, one of the strengths of the pass-catcher is the ability to use his body and wingspan. While he isn’t going to command a large portion of targets, he has the ability to make big plays and stretch the field. His talents aren’t out of this world, but he brings a unique skill-set to the receiving core.

The large receiver was undrafted following the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent the first part of his career on the Washington Redskins practice squad. He did log game-time in his first season after being promoted to the active squad. Last year, in his third season, Harris played in 12 games, starting seven of them. His differing skill-set from the current receivers shows the need for larger targets for Brady, as tight end Dwayne Allen was cut and Rob Gronkowski is still mum about his future with the team.

As of now, the wide receiver position group is still in serious need of help, consisting of Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett, Matthew Slater, and new additions Bruce Ellington and Harris. Harris is the only “big-body” receiver on the Patriots’ roster currently, unlike the shifty receivers previously listed that Belichick covets for his lightning-tempo offense. Entering his fourth year, Harris has much to prove and has been given a dream spot to ignite his young career.

A player that could be compared to Harris is ex-Patriot Malcolm Mitchell. Just like Harris, Mitchell can’t burn someone with speed, but he can go up to make contested plays. They both have crisp route running skills, and both excel at using their wingspan to snatch balls out of the air. Additionally, they both know how to work the sideline to make over-the-shoulder and back-shoulder catches, the latter being one of Brady’s favorite throws to make. Currently, as the only true “X” receiver on the roster, Harris has a solid chance of making the roster.

Even though it’s a longshot for his return as of now, the return of Josh Gordon could be huge for Harris. Gordon, who has the ability to stretch the field and can also serve as a possession receiver, is a large target like Harris and knows how to make plays with his body to come down with the ball. The troubled receiver would be an excellent mentor for the young pro as they have similar play-styles that will be greatly needed by New England entering the 2019 season.

The Harris’ signing can be traced to the glaring lack of receivers currently on the Patriots’ roster or it could be a crazy hunch by Belichick, but the mastermind coach has a habit of turning undrafted players into stars. Moving on from Alex Smith and Josh Johnson, and now having Tom Brady, will be a monumental upgrade for Harris. Perhaps the poor locker room culture, and coaching, of the Redskins delayed the progression of the receiver. All of these factors hint towards a positive turnaround in New England for the new addition.

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