N'Keal Harry's best skill shows why Bears traded for wide receiver

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Harry's best skill shows why Bears made trade for WR originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

N'Keal Harry never lived up to his first-round draft slot in New England. Harry struggled to gain separation and would be invisible for long stretches of time. Had he not been a first-round pick, Bill Belichick would likely have cut bait with him sooner.

Instead, the Bears acquired Harry on Tuesday for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick. It was a low-risk, no-lose move for the Bears. Chicago needs to fill out its wide receiver corps behind Darnell Mooney, and they acquired a first-round talent for basically nothing.

There's a good chance Harry doesn't blossom in Chicago, the separation issues remain, and he bounces around rosters for the next few years before his career ends.

But while Harry struggled to become a consistent pass-catching weapon for the Patriots, his run-blocking ability highlights why he piqued the Bears' interest.

Last season, Harry had the second-best run-blocking grade for a wide receiver (84.7), per Pro Football Focus. Byron Pringle, who the Bears signed to a one-year contract earlier this offseason, ranked eighth (74.8).

Having wide receivers willing and able to block in the run game is key to the success of the wide-zone/bootleg offense. If the receivers are capable blockers, the running game is more likely to succeed and it becomes easier to sell the run game in play-action.

Last season, Fields was 35 for 57 for 509 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions on play-action.

Getsy and the Bears have a plan to make the game easier for Fields during a critical second season, and the running game's success is paramount to that success.

“Our run game has to complement our pass, and vice versa," Bears running backs coach David Walker said during OTAs. "Justin will be a much better quarterback if we can be productive running the football. I think everybody understands that and knows that.

"So we’re trying to put a premium on both really, and the offense is set up so it kind of marries one another, the things that we’re doing from a run game marry the things we’re going to do from a pass standpoint, the type of people we’ve tried to acquire fit certain roles in this particular offense, so once again Justin’s going to play better if we as an offense can run the ball effectively, that’s going to open up a lot of stuff for him.”

The Bears hope Harry can be a big-body target that can, at the very least, help them move the chains on third down and give Fields a jump-ball target in the red zone. But even if he's hit-and-miss in the passing game, his ability to run block could see him get plenty of snaps for a Bears team relying on the wide-zone scheme to make up for what they lack in talent.

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