As apart of an ongoing series, Taking Inventory aims to assess every position set on the Bears, taking a peek at the previous season and provide a sneak peek into projections for the certain group. For day two, we take a gander at the runningback crew.
Even with a stale offensive season crashing the Bears to 30th in the league in yards per game, hampered by a lifeless playbook and all behind a revolving door offensive line squashed by injury, the run game held steady as ever. Lead by obvious focal point Jordan Howard, he ran for a sixth best in the league 1122 yards. With nearly three-tenths of the scoring coming from him, Howard precariously supported the rickety framework of the offense.
As the first Bear to rush for 1,000 yards in their first two seasons, he will be a bonafide workhorse for seasons to come. To complete the double-edged sword in the backfield, the fourth round selection from North Carolina A&T Tarik Cohen almost immediately proved himself the most potent player on the Bears.
At only five feet six inches and packing merely 175 pounds (which is now up to 190 pounds), Cohen could pass for a short yet athletic high schooler. Even with his diminutive stature, he still ran for 370 yards and two touchdowns while adding 353 yards and a score in the air, not to mention his 583 kick return yards and 272 punt yards, with one return touchdown.
He even has 21 passing yards and a passing touchdown to his name. A complete multi-tool of an athlete, Cohen’s impact can come in more forms than one. Even in a mind-numbing Fox offense sapped of ingenuity that simply couldn’t figure out how to use him, he could still bring the energy the playbook had naturally denied. Though Howard fits far more comfortably as a true number one runner, Cohen’s dynamism is an edge that transforms any offense, if utilized properly.
As former head coach John Fox relied heavily on the rush to allow rookie Mitchell Trubisky to grow acclimated in the league, it will be hard to expect Howard to be as prominent this upcoming season. As a hardnosed and reliably tough runner, he doesn’t necessarily fit the speedy west coast style offense new head coach Matt Nagy brought from Kansas City. Trading Howard almost seemed like a viable reality earlier in the offseason.
Cohen, on the other hand, should be in a massive year. Enlisting the services of Mark Helfrich will surround Cohen with the creativity he requires to succeed. Helfrich, a former Oregon coach, famously succeeds with speed and quickness and should be at the mouth-watering over Cohen. Combined with Nagy’s Andy Reid inspired offense, he will fit into a Tyreek Hill type role.
A speedy player with over 1400 all-purpose yards, Hill flourished under Reid’s uniquely innovative system that favors velocity and pure skill. With a deeply similar skill set, Cohen should take huge leaps forward this season under Reid protegé Nagy. Though not at the forefront of the run game, Cohen will have extensive involvement in the Bears offense, not just with handoffs.
Rushing attacks in Chicago always deliver and the Bears manufacture Hall of Fame running backs at assembly line speeds. This season will be a bit of a switch-up, focusing on the inventive side of the rush and employing range weapons rather than the trench warfare that characterized previous teams. With a potential franchise signal caller under center for the first time in decades, this adjustment in mentality will not be a bad thing.