In a year where the Bears offense didn’t always perform at a high level, the one consistent piece they could count on was the running back core. Jordan Howard was joined in the backfield by the rookie Tarik Cohen and fifth-year hybrid back, Benny Cunningham. This trio created a lethal young backfield that will be a problem for the rest of the NFL in the upcoming years.
Jordan Howard had a tremendous rookie season and followed it up with a good sophomore campaign. Howard rushed for 1,112 yards and ran for 9 touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 125 yards. Howard’s highlight of the season was either his game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers to cap off his 140-yard day or his 167-yard performance on the road against Baltimore in a win.
This season wasn’t as spectacular as his rookie season but that is due to the emergence of Tarik Cohen. Howard kept Chicago in a lot of games and was a large part of every win. The MVP of the whole team was Howard, similar to last year.
The rookie running back out of North Carolina A&T had a great first year in the backfield. Cohen ran for 370 yards on four yards per carrying and he averaged 6.7 per reception for 353 yards. His highlight of the season was his 73-yard game winner that he was robbed of against Pittsburgh in overtime. Cohen also did all things on special teams for the Bears, he had one punt return touchdown to capitalize on his 272 punt return yards. Tarik also averaged 22.4 yards per kickoff return.
The Bears acquired Benny Cunningham via free agency and he provided a big threat to catch passes out of the backfield. Cunningham wasn’t as lethal as Tarik Cohen, but he still had a very solid season for John Fox’s squad. Cunningham caught 20 passes out of 26 targets for 240 yards. That is an astonishing 12 yards per reception. Not to mention, Cunningham had two touchdowns on the year, both of those came on the receiving end. In the rushing aspect of the game, Cunningham didn’t blow anyone away. He had just 29 yards on nine carries, but rushing wasn’t what Ryan Pace brought Cunningham to the team for.
Once again, the Bears backfield turned heads all around the country. This group of players helped in Mitch Trubisky’s development. If Trubisky was struggling, he could just turn around and hand the ball off to Jordan Howard. Hopefully next season, Trubisky can lean on the running back core and a good group of receivers to make a more balanced offense.
Overall grade: A-