Chicago Bears interested in Montana State rusher

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The idea of ​​the Bears bringing in Montana State edge runner Daniel Hardy for a top-30 visit might seem a bit confusing based on their current management.

It’s a visit reported by The Draft Network and it seems unusual for what the Bears are trying to do on defense, but in fact it’s not.

Hardy is a 6-foot-4 1/2, 235-pound oddball athlete who only had two years of high school football and one year of junior college ball before blossoming at Montana State, first as a linebacker, then last year at defensive end.

At first glance, Hardy doesn’t seem to fit the 4-3 defense the Bears use. They brought in a 285-pound defensive end in Al-Quadin Muhammad and brought in Minnesota Gophers defensive end Esezi Otomewo for a draft visit. He is 6-6 and 285 pounds.

The 4-3 end is usually bigger than the outside linebackers or leading passers the Bears used in their old 3-4 scheme with Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson. However, there are two ways of seeing Hardy that could explain their interest.

1. Hardy the strong side linebacker

The Bears could look to Hardy as someone they want to train to be a 4-3 outside linebacker, strong side or SAM linebacker. He has the speed to do it and he played linebacker before his move to defensive end for Montana State.

On Hardy’s pro day, he stunned scouts with a 40-inch vertical leap. His 40-time of 4.6 would have been good enough at the combine not only for a quick defensive end time, but also for 12th-best linebacker time.

He’s a versatile, fast athlete who lacks a lot of football experience and the Bears might want to mold him into a linebacker. A player with 4.6 speed should be able to stay with tight ends in pass coverage with some practice on technique, and Hardy would need that due to his lack of experience.

NFL Draft Bible ranked Hardy as a strong team or SAM linebacker and ranked him 12th in this draft, even though his best season was defensive.

2. Hardy the Situational Player

Just because the Bears went 4-3 doesn’t mean they stopped using players in specialty situations.

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Using a 6-4 1/2, 235-pound defensive end on possible downs doesn’t make much sense in a 4-3 because of the ends’ responsibility to contain the run in that defense. Everyone attacks on the field and the ends must keep containment or there may be prison breaks around the edge. But in passing situations, a speed rusher can thrive if running isn’t a factor. It also seems more and more in the NFL that almost every down is a pass.

In Hardy’s last year after moving to the end, he recorded 16 1/2 sacks and 24 1/2 tackles for loss using that great speed he displayed on his pro day.

Deploying a player like Hardy as both a linebacker or a passing thrower on the edge in passing situations to replace players like Muhammad or even a player like Otomewo is a strategically wise use of personnel.

The age of specialization has long hit the NFL, and 235-pound rushers can thrive, especially if they’re able to play as a linebacker on the downhills.

Specialization does not necessarily mean a particular position, but it can mean a particular skill set for a specific program.

Hardy is likely to be a later draft pick by someone on Day 3 depending on his seeding, and he could be someone with a very particular set of skills that causes his opponents a lot of problems.

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