Chicago Bears roster bubble candidate: RB Ryan Nall

Ryan nall, bears

Ask any Chicago Bears fans what playing running back means for the Bears franchise and they’ll start naming players that you’ve never heard of, that probably had one big play in some preseason game. That’s the case for Bears running back Ryan Nall, who now enters his fourth season with the team.

Undrafted out of Oregon State in 2018, Nall spent his rookie season on the Bears practice squad before being promoted to the active roster halfway through the 2019 season. Year three, 2020, would see Nall appear in all 16 games with zero starts. He did manage to haul in eight receptions for 67 yards, averaging 8.4 yards per reception.

The Bears see Nall’s value as being a pass-catcher, a skill essential to head coach Matt Nagy’s offense for running backs. But Chicago did add some additional depth to the running back room this offseason: Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, and C.J. Marable. 2019 UDFA Artavis Pierce will rejoin the mix and compete for a roster spot.



Added depth, along with a healthy Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery means Nall could potentially be on his way out.

The case for keeping Nall

Mentioned above, Nall’s biggest impact in 2020 was as a receiver. The numbers show a similar story, as Nall has caught 88.9 percent of his passes, with 18 yards being his longest reception. During his college days, Nall played tight end, which is where his pass-catching background comes into play. He also averaged 5.9 yards after the catch with the ball in his hands, which accounted for five first downs.

Nall’s second-biggest impact with the Bears has come on special teams, where he’s developed into a quality blocker under ST coordinator Chris Tabor. Last season saw Nall play 65 percent of snaps on special teams, a 32 percent increase from 2019, showing an increase in his role with the Bears.

The case for cutting Nall

As a runner, Nall has had minimal impact. Just five rushing attempts for eight yards over the last two years leads to questions about his ability to become a complete running back. In Nagy’s offense, dual-threat running backs are perfect fits, as they allow for Nagy to get creative when it comes to matchups. Nall’s inability to be an effective run makes him one dimensional, which means his true value is limited unless Chicago decides to give him more opportunities in the running game.

Conclusion

Nall is certainly one of the tougher players to figure out when it comes to the Bears. He’s shown that he can have an impact as a pass-catcher but unless he can become an effective running back who can impact the game on third downs, Nall is on the roster bubble as a player who could be cut with the additional depth that the Bears have added.

What will be very telling of Nall’s future with the Bears is the amount of snaps he receives compared to players like Pierce, Williams, and Herbert during training camp practices. Three contests during the preseason, where Nall continues to thrive, will also determine what the Bears hope to do when giving Nall additional carries during live-action games.