The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27 and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Running backs
The Starter: Tarik Cohen (1,169 scrimmage yards (444 rushing, 725 receiving), 8 total touchdowns, 71.6 grade from Pro Football Focus)
The Backups: David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr., Ryan Nall
Potential Training Camp Star: It’s tough for running backs to stand out during min-camps, but David Montgomery did so, given how he approached practices and workouts. Starting this summer, Montgomery will be given an opportunity to show what he can really do once he puts the pads on. If he’s as impressive in pads during the summer months as he was without them in spring, he has a chance to become a training camp favorite and possibly put him on a path to snag a spot in the starting lineup later this year.
We Really Like: Ryan Nall was the people’s champ last summer, and with good reason. A 69-yard touchdown run and 7.0 yards per carry average last summer were highlights of a nice preseason for Nall, who racked up 32 carries and produced a team-leading 223 yards in the process. Nall’s hard-nosed, straight-forward running style was appreciated as he took a bulk of the Bears’ preseason rushing attempts, which allowed Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to take it easy. Nall might be tasked with doing the dirty work again this preseason, so let’s not overlook his contributions to the big picture this time around. And who knows, perhaps another strong summer could put him on the radar of a team who could give him something more than just some summertime snaps.
We Might Be Worried About: Howard carved out quite a role for himself with the Bears late in the 2018 season. Because while Howard wasn’t as explosive or productive as he was in his first two years with the Bears, his ability to pick up tough yards down the stretch helped the team put games (and eventually the NFC North crown) on ice. Cohen simply isn’t built to be a late-game bruiser or someone whose runs can chew up the clock, so Montgomery or Mike Davis will likely be given those responsibilities. Considering how well Howard performed in that role late last year, that’s a big ask for two players who are new to the team.
2019 Forecast: Montgomery doesn’t feel pressure, which is good because following in the footsteps of a fan-favorite Pro Bowl back isn’t going to be easy. And when you’re doing it for a franchise littered with all-time great rushers, the expectations are going to be higher than for most other teams. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon often talks about pressure being a good thing because it means something great can happen, which I feel is applicable to the Bears’ backfield situation
In addition to having Montgomery, the Bears will feature Cohen, Davis, and rookie Kerrith Whyte Jr., all of whom bring something special to the running backs room. So while the Bears don’t have one do-it-all back chewing up a vast majority of the carries, they have a collection of rushers who can do a little bit of everything. This group should be fun to watch at training camp (and beyond).