I’m predicting that the Chicago Bears will get top five production from the running back position in 2019, and I’m talking not only rushing yards, but receiving too. From top to bottom, this is one of the more versatile groups in the National Football League.
The Bears weren’t completely happy with their tailback options from a year ago, so they shipped Jordan Howard out to the highest bidder (the Eagles), added free agent Mike Davis, then moved up in the draft for David Montgomery. They also signed Cordarrelle Patterson, who will for sure get some reps at the position, but I’ll talk about his versatility when I profile the wide receivers tomorrow.
Chicago’s top three at the position are set, with the lone returning impact player, Tarik Cohen, set to add to his ultimate-weapon status for the Bears. Head coach Matt Nagy will continue to line him up anywhere in the offense to take advantage of mismatches, but with Davis and Montgomery able to move to wide out too, Nagy’s playbook options are limitless.
I know some are concerned with the Bears having no “power” back on the roster, but don’t sleep on Montgomery for getting those short yardage carries. He’s a solidly built 5’10” and 222 pounds, and he runs with a purpose.
With the versatility from this group, I would expect the Bears to play two backs at a time quite a bit. Imagine Mitchell Trubisky in shotgun with Montgomery and Cohen on either side, then shifting one (or both) of them out wide to match-up against a linebacker or safety.
Imagine the Bears going heavy with a two tight end set and three running backs in a diamond formation, then shifting the tailbacks out wide. Will a defense stay in base against a look like this or sub into their nickel package?
A good bet to make it
With no fullback on the current roster, the Bears may elect to open the season with a fourth running back, but Patterson’s versatility could keep the position at three. If they do go with a fourth, I think the spot will go to rookie Kerrith Whyte Jr. The 5’10”, 200 pound Whyte is track-star fast, but he’ll need to play special teams to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster.
On the bubble
Ryan Nall has the size (6’2”, 232 pounds) and collegiate experience to play some fullback/H-back for the Bears, but so far it’s only been reported that he’s lined up at running back since being an undrafted free agent a year ago. If he’s strictly a tailback, then he’ll need to show that his power is an added dimension that the team needs. He still has practice squad eligibility, so that’s an option for him as well.