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Chicago Bears’ running back situation ranked 4th in the NFL

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

If the 2017 Chicago Bears’ offense is looking for something to hang their hat on, my guess it will have something to do with second year pro, Jordan Howard. He was a rookie sensation in 2016, with the second most rushing yards in the league. But more impressive than his 1,313 yards on the ground, was him doing it at 5.2 yards per carry. Maybe even more impressive than that, was the fact he did it with a less than stellar passing game supporting the offense.

If they can get more consistent quarterback play, opposing defenses should have more to worry about this year, and Howard may have a little more room to run.

His rookie season wasn’t without deficiencies, but that’s what the offseason is for; becoming a better player. Last year, he wasn’t much of a receiving threat out of the backfield. He had a few high profile drops sprinkled around his 59% catch percentage. If he can work on his concentration and hands, 2017 could be an even more impactful year for him.

It should be a good year for the entire Bears’ running backs.

Last week, FOX Sports ranked the top running back situations in the NFL, and even though we’re not exactly sure how Chicago’s depth chart will play out, they ranked the Bears 4th.

Jordan Howard is entering just his second season in the NFL, but he’s already one of the most underrated running backs around. He finished second in rushing last season to only Ezekiel Elliott, racking up 1,313 yards and six touchdowns on only 252 carries. He averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry behind a not-so-great Bears offensive line, which was the most impressive part of his season.

I keep seeing national guys take shots at the Bears’ o-line, and while “not-so-great” isn’t that big of a dis, it does sound negative. At this point, I think that’s just the narrative that this offensive line is stuck with. The three interior starters are all well above average, so even if you want to label the tackles as below average, I don’t get the national negativity.

Howard is going to carry the Bears’ offense again with the passing game likely to struggle, and a sophomore slump shouldn’t be expected. He said he’s lighter and faster this offseason, and he's eager to prove he wasn’t a one-year wonder. Jeremy Langford and rookie Tarik Cohen – the Human Joystick – are good complements to Howard, as well, providing the Bears depth at running back.

The passing game could struggle. Or it could be more consistent than a year ago when three QBs all had at least five starts. I don’t expect newcomer Mike Glennon to play at a Pro Bowl level, but if he can give the Bears some safe, dependable play, with the occasional deep shot, I think the passing game will be better.

Here’s what the Bears have behind Howard, ranked by how I view their chances to make the opening day roster.

  • Tarik Cohen - In my opinion, the rookie has the potential to be the perfect compliment to Howard.
  • Benny Cunningham - The Bears brought him in to help on special teams and to be insurance if Langford doesn’t develop.
  • Jeremy Langford - He had a decent rookie year, but last season injuries really slowed him down. There may be only one spot for Cunningham or Langford tgo fight for.
  • Ka’Deem Carey - Once the Bears drafted Howard, I figured Carey’s days were numbered. He’ll really need to prove his worth on special teams to make the roster.
  • Joel Bouagnon - I think this UDFA may stick on the practice squad.

The Bears opened the 2016 season with three running backs and one fullback. In 2015, they went with four RBs to open the season.

I think Howard and Cohen are locks, but after that, the competition will be fierce.