Kerrith Whyte might not be represented in the nickname the Bears chose for their new-look backfield — "Run DMC" — but the sixth-rounder's speed just might render that moniker's fit "tricky."
Practicing in shorts without pads, like the Bears did three times this weekend at their rookie minicamp, is right in the wheelhouse of Whyte. He has "standout" 4.38 speed, but at 5-foot-10 and less than 200 pounds, his size stood out in a different way alongside fellow draft pick David Montgomery (5-10, 222) and first-year player Ryan Nall (6-2, 232) among his position group over the weekend.
Of course, making sure he's noticed in crowded backfields is nothing new to Whyte, whom the Bears worked out privately before the draft alongside FAU running mate Devin Singletary, who was selected one spot after Montgomery, No. 74 overall, in Round 3.
"We were aware of [Whyte], but naturally when you’re watching the tapes, you’re watching two really good running backs, but two different styles and they both jumped out in different ways," GM Ryan Pace explained after the draft.
Pace said that Whyte's speed and versatility attracted the scouts and coaches on offense and special teams collectively, and the rookie apparently wasted little time in making a quick impression on Matt Nagy at rookie minicamp.
"He is super fast," coach Matt Nagy said of Whyte on the final day of minicamp, reiterating what he said Saturday after the rookie flashed on a vertical route. "What I like with Kerrith right now is that you can tell his football knowledge within our offense. Now we've scaled back a lot this camp so that guys can go out and show us who they are as players. But so far, not many mistakes."
Perhaps that should be expected with Whyte coming from former NFL coach Lane Kiffin's program, something he alluded to.
"I mean, honestly, my college coaches have prepared me very well for the opportunity," said Whyte, who averaged 7.1 yards and totaled 10 scores on 144 touches from scrimmage as a redshirt junior in 2018. "So far, it's going well."
The Bears obviously are smitten with Montgomery, whom they traded fourth- and fifth-rounders to New England to move up 14 spots and nab. He joins free-agent signee Mike Davis, like Montgomery a potential feature runner without breakaway ability And of course there's Tarik Cohen, already one of the game's more dangerous playmakers as he enters Year 3.
But Chicago's two new rookie backs are quite different stylistically, and if there's one thing we know about Nagy's offense, it tends to feature something for everyone.
So, though Whyte's meal ticket to dressing on Sundays for now remains how much he can provide in the third phase, and the Bears likely intend to lean on Montgomery the most in their committee backfield, Whyte's size-speed blend is unique in the offense.
There also are at least a couple recent examples that Bears fans likely are familiar with of teams with two productive rookie rushers, if not the lower-pedigreed prospect out-producing the perceived starter.
Take the Green Bay Packers, for instance. Two years ago, fifth-rounder Aaron Jones, not fourth-rounder Jamaal Williams, led them in yards per game, despite missing the final four with injury. Williams was perceived to be the more polished three-down back, but Jones exceeded expectations on passing downs, and his explosiveness forced his way on the field.
Last season, Denver Broncos UDFA Phillip Lindsay — now under the tutelage of Vic Fangio — eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards and tied for second in the NFL in average per carry (5.4), trailing, coincidentally, only Jones' 5.5. The Broncos signed Lindsay in college free agency after spending the 71st overall pick on Royce Freeman, a bigger, more rounded back without the same type of athleticism.
Lindsay is even smaller than Whyte at 5-8 and 190 pounds, and though he ran a similar 40 (4.39), he didn't test as well across the board. In addition to his 40 time, Whyte's 42" vertical and 132" broad jump would have paced all backs at the combine, where — like Lindsay — he wasn't invited.
To be clear: Our expectation is that Montgomery will indeed lead the Bears in rushing this season. But if Whyte continues to show advanced offensive knowledge and earns the trust of his coaches to be a factor on passing downs, who knows what type of role he might create for himself.
After all, speed is Whyte's recital, and we think it just might be very vital for Nagy's Bears offense.