When looking at how the runningback position will fit on a projected 53 man roster for the 2015 Chicago Bears, we have to take a look back at what head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase did while working for the Denver Broncos the last two seasons. In 2014, the Broncos broke camp with 4 RBs and in 2013 they opened the season with 5.
We know that Gase's offense doesn't utilize a traditional fullback, and we also know that Fox's teams have traditionally taken a runningback by committee approach. If they have a lead dog, they'll use him, but we won't see one back playing over 90% of the offensive snaps.
The Broncos did have some injuries at the tailback position last year, so their top back only played 44% of the snaps, but even in 2013 their top runner only played 58%. I would be very surprised if the Bears didn't scale Matt Forte's snaps back to about 60% this season. But in order to do that, one or more of the backups will need to produce when called upon.
Matt Forte is a lock to be the starter for Fox and Gase this year and we can look back to 2013 to get an idea how his skills will be utilized. In 2013 it was Knowshon Moreno that was at 58% of the snaps for Denver and he went over a thousand yards on the ground, but also caught 60 balls. Forte has proven to be a better all around player than Moreno, so I would expect his numbers to remain around 1,600 yards from scrimmage, even with a reduced workload.
The Chicago Bears currently have 29 players in the last year of their contract
Matt Forte is just one of 29 players that are currently playing out the final year of their deals with the Bears.
A renewed focus on the running game should allow Forte to showcase his skills as he enters the final year on his contract. He'll be looking to prove he shouldn't be lumped in with the stereotype of older backs slowing down, and a backfield by committee is perfect for him at this time in his career. He's always kept himself in great shape and even at 29, I expect him to play at a Pro Bowl level. Because playing for your NFL future often brings out the best in a player.
Regardless if the Bears carry 3, 4 or 5 backs I think somehow rookie Jeremy Langford makes the cut. I don't see new general manager Ryan Pace dumping his 4th round pick without giving him a chance, but after Langford, it's wide open in the battle for playing time.
A good bet to make it
Even though I assume Langford will make the final 53 man roster, I'm not assuming he'll be the primary backup. Langford has some defensive and special teams experience from his time at Michigan State, which is a plus for a reserve RB. If he's outplayed by 2nd year pro Ka'Deem Carey or free agent pick up Jacquizz Rodgers, I don't think Fox will hesitate to play the hot hand.
I think the Bears will carry 4 backs, so I'm expecting all three of these guys to make it to fight for the right to back up Forte.
On the bubble
But if there's one dark-horse candidate to sneak onto the final roster, it's Daniel Thomas. He's the biggest of the backs in camp at 6'1" and 235 pounds, and he could serve in a short yardage role for the Bears. Thomas also has some special teams experience for the Dolphins the last few years, so that will obviously help his cause.
I don't expect Senorise Perry to return for another year.
I also wouldn't bet against the Bears bringing in another body to compete at the position. Chicago currently has one spot remaining on the 90 man roster and they also could keep an eye on the waiver wire as they progress through camp.
What are you thoughts on the tailback position? Do you see the Bears carrying 3, 4 or 5 backs in 2015?