On your marks, get set ... get open
The signing of Breshad Perriman gives Matt Nagy and the Bears a relay team of sub-4.4-40 speedsters at wide receiver — with Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Now they have to find a way to turn that speed into a weapon.
The Bears have spent three offseasons retooling their offense with parts specifically designed for Matt Nagy’s system — running back David Montgomery for Jordan Howard; tight ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham for Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. Quarterback Justin Fields and Andy Dalton for Mitch Trubisky. It’s almost like the only thing missing is Andy Reid.
But the refurbishing came with a bonus this season. Besides potential upgrades at quarterback, general manager Ryan Pace made a determined effort to give Nagy another element that makes the Reid offense go — speed at wide receiver.
The addition of former Lions/Jets/Buccaneers/Browns/Washington/Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman last week gives the Bears’ wide receiver room a complete 400-meter relay team — joining Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd.
All four have legitimate sub-4.4 40-yard dash times — Perriman (4.24), Mooney (4.38), Goodwin (4.27) and Byrd (4.25). Even by the slower stopwatches, they have rare speed.
But the three newcomers have something else in common besides speed — they haven’t found a home in the NFL. Perriman is on his seventh team in the last five years. Byrd is on his fourth team in the last four years. Goodwin spent four years with the Bills and three with the 49ers, but neither team felt compelled to keep him.
The three newcomers have flashed at previous stops. Goodwin averaged 17.0 yards per catch with the 49ers — including 56 receptions (on 105 targets) for 962 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. Byrd had six catches for 132 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots last season against the Texans. Perriman, a first-round draft pick of the Ravens in 2016, averaged 17.9 yards per catch (36-645) and scored six touchdowns with the Buccaneers in 2019. He has six plays of 50 or more yards and 10 of 40 or more yards.
“You always want to give these guys a fresh start,” Nagy said. “You’ve got to stay positive with them and find out why didn’t things go well here or there — and why did things go well at these other spots, because I know when [Perriman] was at Tampa Bay that second part of the season he was really, really good.”
After striking out with 35-year-old Ted Ginn last year in search of a speed element, the Bears are taking more — and younger — rolls of the dice to complement Allen Robinson and Mooney.
As a speed receiver, Mooney already has it figured out. “There’s a lot of speed guys still on the street because they relied only on their speed,” receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “Great wideouts that have a lot of speed become very, very good route runners and they learn to use their speed. Darnell has done a phenomenal job of that from day one.”
Now Furrey hopes to help Byrd, Goodwin and Perriman get the most out of their speed.
“The main thing is just don’t confuse them,” Furrey said. “Let them play. Let them feel comfortable and let them play as fast as they possibly can. When you start thinking too much — where to line up, all those kinds of things — it slows everybody down. And if you slow that trait down, now you’ve got an average guy out there that can run.”
A big factor, like with just about every other individual facet,is having a well-designed offense — or a mobile, inventive quarterback — that creates opportunity. It’s Nagy’s job to put all of his preferred pieces together to turn all that speed into a weapon.