This personnel choice continues to hurt Chicago Bears
Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears have not made much sense in anything they do these days offensively. While there are various things to poke at, one of the more interesting is that Damiere Byrd has out-snapped both Jimmy Graham and Jesse James.
Byrd is technically the Bears’ fourth wide receiver, and given how much Nagy supposedly loves multiple tight end sets, it seems wild that four wideouts would get snaps over the second and third tight end in this offense. Still, there is a big gap with Byrd playing 226 snaps, James at 130, and Graham at 127.
It is one thing to assume that they are trailing in games, and the pass-catching options are coming on, but that is not the case. Byrd has 90 run-blocking snaps, to 62 for James and Graham. Adding in pass-block snaps shows Graham at 67 and James 80 blocking snaps, but that still does not match how many snaps they have thrown Byrd out to block.
This would be fine if Byrd were an imposing blocker, but he is one of the smaller wideouts on the team and is listed around 180 pounds. This has been the Bears’ plans for him, though, as they have used him in the role from week 1 through week 9.
Below you can see him lined up on a screen to block Jalen Ramsey. It might have given away that it was a screen if a tight end is out there, but Byrd was manhandled and thrown into Darnell Mooney, almost making the tackle himself. This is not the week one play that should have coaches saying Byrd needs more blocking snaps.
Still, the Bears used him in this role in week one and kept replacing an extra tight end with him. Below we see week four against the Cleveland Browns. This game will infamously be remembered as the game that the Bears did not help Justin Fields with chip blocks on Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
However, below we see that Byrd was lined in tight as a tight end expected to chip block, Clowney. He is next to Cole Kmet, and it looks like a two tight end set, but the second tight end is 180 pounds and a wide receiver.
Matt Nagy and the Bears made adjustments after losing to the Browns, but they did not block Byrd away. Again, in the play below, we see Byrd trying to chip Maxx Crosby on a run play. Byrd is on the ground, and Crosby is finishing the play.
Then last night, we saw the theme continue. It is the same ask, this time against Alex Highsmith. Byrd dives down to pull off the block. He provides a bit more than a speed bump. Again, Highsmith does not necessarily blow the play up, but Byrd is not helping, and a better blocker would.
The only argument for keeping Byrd in over an extra tight end is the defensive personnel. By having an extra wideout, you are signaling to the defense that they need to put an extra defensive back on the field.
If Byrd were a big wideout who could block, it would make more sense. By running into a group with a smaller body than a linebacker, it can help. The issue is that you cross off the more petite body by Byrd being so small and not a great blocker.
Beyond that, look at the plays that are highlighted. These are not empty boxes. Most of the time, Byrd is packed into the line and looks like a tight end, and because of his alignment, the defense treats him like a blocker. He provides no value.
The fact that we have clips from week one through week nine is frustrating. None of the plays are Byrd springing a run or getting an edge rusher down to help pick up a few extra yards. They are runs into a packed box.
The Chicago Bears have been using Jesse James more because of his blocking, but now they need to replace Byrd with James completely.