While rumors about Russell Wilson’s potential interest in the Chicago Bears flew around the league, the team made a quiet and rather small move: they are re-signing running back and key special teams performer Ryan Nall, as reported by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. Chicago signed Nall in 2018 as an undrafted free agent, and after making the practice squad that year, he has made steady gains with the team ever since.
He made the 53-man roster in 2019, getting called up in November that year. He played in eight games, getting his first touches as a pro. Nall had two carries for eight yards, and he played even more this past season.
The 25-year-old running back made the roster last year, and he appeared in all 16 games in 2020. He was a minimal contributor on offense, netting just three carries for no yards, but he played a slightly smaller role in the passing game, catching eight passes on nine targets for 67 yards and a score. Pro Football Focus gave him a 78.6 passing grade and a 51.5 rushing grade in 2020. He was flagged once on offense for a false start Week 5 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nall’s role in Chicago has been primarily on special teams, though. He notched 294 snaps and played on 65 percent of the team’s special teams snaps last year, becoming a solid contributor to the unit. He was on the field for 33 percent of the team’s special teams snaps in 2019, so he saw his playing time double this season.
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Nall Has Established Himself as Versatile Presence
The Bears running backs room is currently occupied by David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Nall, and Artavis Pierce. Cordarrelle Patterson, who also spent significant time at the position in his two seasons with the team, is currently a free agent, and his return remains a question mark. For his part, Nall seems to have found his niche.
“I can help out wherever I can. I can line up at fullback. I can get some touches, get some catches as well,” Nall said, via Sports Illustrated, early in the 2020 season. “We’ve got a real solid room and I believe in these guys and they believe in me and our coaches have faith in us.”
Nall was instrumental in getting fellow UDFA Pierce to sign in the Windy City. “That’s my guy,” Nall told Gene Chamberlain about Pierce, who roomed with him at Oregon State. “He was at Oregon State with me for two years, his freshman and sophomore year. We roomed for the games and away games, hotel rooming. I got to know A.P. really well. I actually helped kind of with his decision coming here in free agency.”
Bears HC Matt Nagy: ‘We Trust Ryan’
“We have a lot of trust in Ryan,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy told Chamberlain about Nall last September. “What Ryan has done is he’s earned his way on to this team via special teams and as a role player. And now he’s starting to grow more and more. So that trust factor that we have with him we can do some different things.”
“He just did everything that he could do to become a better running back and a better special teams player and when you have that it really helps you out,” Nagy added.
For his part, Nall is just happy to be living the dream: “Whether it’s going to be going in at running back and getting some carries or going in at fullback and blocking or being a special teamer, four-phase guy and doing what I can on special teams, I’m just going to do what I can to help this team out,” he said.