The Chicago Bears’ rushing game struggled in 2019. With an improved offensive line and more experience, the running backs unit should perform better in 2020.
The Chicago Bears struggled mightily on offense in 2019. The offensive line dealt with players playing out of place, injuries, and penalties. That, in turn, made other positions struggle. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had to deal with pressure. Throwing before he wanted to or running for his life at times, some of the throws to his receivers suffered (well, except for Allen Robinson). The tight ends also dealt with injuries but also spent too much time helping the offensive line.
Another position group that suffered was the running backs unit. The Bears’ rushing attack ranked near the bottom at nearly all categories, as you can see below.
- Rushing attempts: 20th
- Yards: 27th
- Touchdowns: 28th
- Yards per rush: 29th
In order for the Bears offense to improve and for the Bears to win some games, these stats must change. Yes, this is a passing league now, but it is important for the Chicago Bears offense to have an effective running game to help the passing game.
In terms of involving the running game, head coach Matt Nagy admitted this offseason that he needs to run a bit more.
When your run game isn’t quite as good as you want it to be, at that time, it’s hard to call runs. At the same time, we need to do whatever’s best for our team. We need to adjust and adapt as coaches to who our players are. Whatever we need to do, we’ll do it.
For all his troubles, starter David Montgomery finished with 1,074 yards from scrimmage. That is amazing considering how many times he was touched behind the line of scrimmage and the wall of humanity he faced at the line of scrimmage. The line failed to get a push on most of his carries. His shiftiness and incredible balance helped him grind tough yards. He tied for sixth in broken tackles.
Rushing attack should be better in 2020
With an improved offensive line, Montgomery should have more space to operate. That bodes well for him. Some expect a breakout season for him. He has the experience from last season under his belt so he knows what to expect now. He gained 889 rushing yards behind a battered offensive line. With an improved line, he should break 1,000 yards. Additionally, with a sharper passing attack, he could eclipse 300 receiving yards.
Tarik Cohen is another running back who struggled in 2019. In 2018, he gained 444 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. On the other hand, in 2019, he rushed for less than half that (213 yards) and didn’t get any rushing touchdowns.
Cohen ended up being Montgomery’s main backup. The Bears signed Mike Davis and had rookie Kerrith Whyte, but waived them both. Cohen isn’t your normal run between the tackles type of back. He is a gadget player. He’ll take a few snaps at running back but his main job is to be a slot receiver. He had 725 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2019, that went down to 456 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Who is the main backup?
The Bears signed Artavis Pierce as a free agent rookie. Despite his recent stint on the COVID virus reserve list that kept him out of camp for a little while, he is back. He has a very good chance of making the team and becoming Montgomery’s main backup. In his college years, he averaged 5.8 yards per rush in a backup role. He is used to helping off the bench. Because of that, he frees Cohen up to be the player he was in 2018.
Cordarrelle Paterson is another gadget player in this offense. He plays all over the field as an outside receiver, slot receiver, and running back. Last season he even volunteered to help out at tight end. He’ll continue to do the same this season. Furthermore, with better offensive line play, he can get some space and his size helps him run through defenders. Once he gets in the open field, he has the speed to outrun the second level.
The Chicago Bears feel comfortable with what they have in their running backs room. They feel with improved offensive line play and more effective running plays called the rushing attack will be greatly improved. We’ll see if that happens.