The Chicago Bears added Benny Cunningham to the roster after no tailback emerged to back up Pro Bowler Jordan Howard last year. There were high expectations for Jeremy Langford coming into the 2016 season, but he never did get going, then an early injury opened the door for Howard to have his fantastic season.
Ka’Deem Carey also had a chance to carve out a niche, and he didn’t stand out either. Both players averaged less than four yards a carry and neither made much of an impact in the passing game.
Enter Cunningham, who has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and has proven to be a viable option in the passing game. He’s also a quality special teamer, which leads me to believe he’s a roster lock as Howard’s primary backup. In the preseason opener, Cunningham had 7 rushes for 41 yards (5.9yps), with a rushing TD, and 2 receptions for 25 yards.
Experience: Fifth season
Weight: 217 pounds
Contract and salary cap
The Bears signed Cunningham to a 1 year, $855,000 contract, which included an $80,000 guarantee.
Reason for improvement in 2017
The last three years the Rams chose to use him less and less. He had a career high 66 carries for 246 yards, and 45 receptions for 352 yards in 2014. He’ll have competition with rookie Tarik Cohen for carries, but I suspect that Cunningham (the bigger of the two) will be the primary back up, with Cohen having certain packages designed to get him the ball, both out of the backfield and also lined up as a receiver.
Reason for regression in 2017
If Cohen proves that his size doesn’t matter, and that he can take a pounding, he’ll be the #2, which will steal carries from Cunningham. There’s also a chance that Carey or Langford come son in the next couple weeks and knocks Benny off the roster.
Final roster odds
However, I don’t see either of those two beating out Cunningham. I like his odds to stick on the roster, and to be the primary back up. I think both he and Cohen are good complements to the bruising Howard.