What a difference between these last two offseasons. Last year at this time, many Chicago Bears’ fans were still complaining about the decision to part ways with Matt Forte. The running back by committee approach that head coach John Fox seemed to favor, was still a mystery. There was a number one on the depth chart, but he wasn’t very inspiring. There was a rookie in camp that some fans were excited to see, but he was a fifth rounder, so expectations were somewhat tempered. Plus there was the Ka’Deem Carey fan club still pushing that agenda.
Flash forward to now, and there’s talk about the Bears possibly having the 2017 league leading rusher. Also, some would claim, the Bears have the best back in football.
I look at the roster and I see two sure fire locks. Jordan Howard, who is more prepared for his second season than he was for his rookie campaign, is going to push for the league rushing title. But even if he doesn’t equal his 1,313 yards from a year ago, he will have a more productive all around game.
Another lock is rookie Tarik Cohen. His play seems like the perfect complement to what Howard does. Yes he’s small, but that’s fine. You want to give defenses different looks, and linebackers gearing up to tackle a 6’1”, 222 pound runner, will have a much different aim point that when tackling a 5’6”, 179 pounder. Cohen will probably be used sparingly, but he will be used.
A good bet to make it
If the Bears were happy with their backups last year, they wouldn’t have gone and added free agent Benny Cunningham. He can play special teams, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and at 5’10”, 217, he can carry the load if needed.
On the bubble
Last year’s number one tailback out of camp, Jeremy Langford, is in serious danger of getting cut. Cunningham occupies the same space on the team, and he’s the new guy. Langford will need to have an outstanding camp to win a job.
The aforementioned Ka’Deem Carey will be in a battle, but I don’t see a place for him on this team. If he has a good showing, I could see him catching on with another team. He is a hard runner, and as a #3 guy, he has some value in the right scheme.
NIU’s Joel Bouagnon, another UDFA, may carve out a niche as a short yardage guy. He had a rep as a good blocker in college, so at 6’2”, 228, he may also be able to add value in a fullback role.
And speaking of the fullbacks...
In 2015, the first year of the John Fox era, the Bears carried four running backs on the initial 53 man roster. Last year, they also carried four backs, but it was three tailbacks and one fullback. Personally, I’m pulling for a fullback to make the roster, but we’ll have to see how the offense evolves in camp. Muddying up the fullback possibilities is the tight end position. If a tight end can show an ability to play H-Back effectively, that could push the FB off the roster. The FB or TE conundrum is a fluid thing. So with that being said, both fullbacks, veteran Michael Burton and UDFA Freddie Stevenson, are on the bubble. I will give the edge to the vet however.
How do you guys see the backfield shaking out?