Ryan Poles knew he couldn’t take the home run swings other teams were at the wide receiver position. He didn’t have the money, or the draft picks to do so. That means the Chicago Bears GM had to get creative. He signed multiple free agents to cheaper contracts, most of them with decent backgrounds like Byron Pringle. Then he drafted speedy Velus Jones Jr. in the 3rd round. People thought he was done. That was until he pulled a surprise trade with New England for N’Keal Harry.
It was Poles’ first trade in acquiring a player rather than shipping them out. That meant he and his front office felt the former 1st round pick had something to offer the Bears. Harry was quite the specimen coming out of college at 6’4 with 33-inch arms. He had the rare ability to consistently outmuscle defenders for the football whenever it was thrown in his direction. How good the coverage was never seemed to matter. Yet that ability never seemed to manifest in New England. Some blamed him. Others blamed the system he was placed in. Either way, his time there was a failure. Harry needed a fresh start. The Bears gave it to him.
According to Josh Schrock of NBC Sports, it sounds like he’s taking advantage of it.
“Harry got a late start learning the offense after arriving in late July following a trade from the New England Patriots.
The former first-round pick had a rough couple days to open camp but has been more consistent this week. Harry made a few impressive grabs over the middle during team drills Wednesday, including a nice snag in traffic during the end-of-half portion of practice.
Fields lauded Harry for the extra work he has put in with the coaches to get up to speed learning the offense.
The Bears like where he is at right now, and his chemistry with Fields is improving with each practice.”
N’Keal Harry still has work to do.
The hierarchy of the Bears’ wide receiver position is coming into focus. Darnell Mooney is at the top. Then it feels like a legitimate battle between Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown for the #2 spot while Velus Jones settles into that #3-4 area. Harry was always likely to stay on the roster due to his run-blocking ability by itself. If he can continue gaining the confidence of Justin Fields, his role in the offense should rapidly expand.
The upcoming preseason feels big for N’Keal Harry. Looking good in practice is fine. That is a critical first step. However, his problem has been carrying it over to games. If he can deliver some strong plays during preseason action, that could solidify his spot in the offense as somebody the team plans to use. Harry was always a cheap flier by the Bears. They gave up a late draft pick to see if anything could be salvaged from his failed Patriots stint.
It is a big challenge. Not many highly-drafted receivers fail with their original teams only to ascend elsewhere. Hearing that he is progressing quickly is an encouraging sign.