Bears

Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen ranked 4th-best RB committee in NFL

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USA Today

Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen ranked 4th-best RB committee in NFL

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard is the only player in team history to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard-rushing seasons. His rookie year produced a team record 1,313 yards for a first-year player.

His backfield-mate, Tarik Cohen, dazzled fans as a rookie with highlight-reel plays as a runner, receiver and return man and is expected to have an even bigger role as an offensive weapon in 2018.

Defenses will be challenged on every down this season, regardless of which running back is in the game. Both players are capable of shouldering starter's responsibilities and as a result, they were ranked the fourth-best running back committee in the NFL by NFL.com's Bucky Brooks.

For a team that won just five games in 2017, the Bears have plenty of reasons for optimism heading into the new season. And a lot of the positive vibes spawn from this 1-2 backfield punch, which gave opponents fits last fall. Howard has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two NFL seasons, exhibiting a one-cut running style that is ideally suited for rugged runs between the tackles. Cohen is a 5-6, 181-pound jitterbug with explosive stop-start quickness and wiggle. He routinely makes defenders miss in tight quarters and is nearly impossible to snag in the open field. As a designated receiver out of the backfield, Cohen exhibits Darren Sproles-like playmaking ability, but he is more polished and refined as a pass catcher. Considering Matt Nagy's experience working with versatile playmakers in Kansas City, the Bears' backfield could be a treat to watch in 2018.

There have been questions surrounding Howard since early in the offseason when he was rumored to be on the trade block. There was no apparent truth to the trade speculation but concerns over how Howard will fit in coach Matt Nagy's system have remained. Mainly, there are doubts about his ability to be an effective receiver out of the backfield, a trait that appears to be a prerequisite for playing time under Nagy.

Naturally, Cohen would seem like a better fit because of his well-rounded game. The only problem, however, is his size. At 5-6 and 181 pounds, he hardly presents as a full-time starter. As a result, they should both find a path to the field and have the opportunity to produce. Add in the new weapons at wide receiver and the modern-era passing attack being installed by Nagy, and the Bears' ground game could reach new heights in 2018.

As for who ends up the primary ball-carrier this season? Nagy hinted that game situation will dictate who's in the backfield, but Howard should continue doing the dirty work between the tackles. It's safe to assume he'll get the lion's share of the carries, but expect Cohen to have a lot more touches in his second season as a receiver and package player.

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Dear Stacey –

Well, I wanted to be head coach of the Chicago Bears and here I am, in charge of my first training camp, worrying about everything from Mitch Trubisky’s RPO footwork to whether Kyle Long is going to fall off his bike sometime in the course of camp. Probably don’t need to worry about Kyle – he’s always so safe about everything, and it’s not like he’s had all kinds of surgeries or anyth-- ….oh, wait, nevermind…

Besides all of that, we’ve got six coaches here as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship. They’re seeing how we do things and helping us out, and this is special. Remember back in Philadelphia when Andy Reid brought me into this profession through that program? Now it’s 11 years later and here I am, and this really represents a little pay-it-forward for me – I can understand where these coaches are because that was me once upon a time. Somebody gave each one of us a break that helped us along the way so our staff is more than delighted to have these fellows here.

Everybody was really pleased that some of our top vets – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Chase Daniel, others – came down to camp early when the rookies reported. The coaches didn’t order that, and it says something about what you hope is forming inside the locker room. The young guys see the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 wide receiver coming in early and it sets both a standard and an example. When your best players are your hardest workers, then you’ve really got some leadership.

The pads’ll be on tomorrow (Saturday) so we’ll start seeing hitting by the fronts on both sides of the football, which takes the speed of everything up a notch. I’m going to pay close attention to how everyone is performing but also to how they’re holding up physically – circumstances set up beautifully for us, with an extra minicamp because I’m a new coach, then an extra practice week to go with the extra game Aug. 2 for the Hall of Fame.

Hope you and the boys are getting all the Chicago arrangements in place. Now, if I can just find my sunblock before practice…

Your coach husband,

Matt

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In search of an empty sick bay

After the obvious workload entailed in installing a new offensive system and coaching regime, Matt Nagy’s No. 1 concern is injury, which has plagued the Bears on an annual basis since the 2012 departure of Lovie Smith. So while Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt once made no secret of their approach using epically physical practices as a means of culling the roster, Nagy has laid out a balancing act between physical practices and knowing when to back off.

“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “That’s a big one. So you have to know where you’re at on that one. You have to have some luck involved in that. There’s some unfortunate injuries and there’s some that happen for certain reasons. Health is the biggest concern for us.”

Sadly, some position competitions and lineup decisions are inevitably dictated by injuries. A season-ending leg injury to Kevin White in 2016 opened a starting job for Cameron Meredith, who’d been the No. 5 wideout on the depth chart. Meredith’s own preseason season-ender made Deonte Thompson a starter. Safety Adrian Amos had fallen from two-year starter to backup by this time last year, and only started again because Quintin Demps suffered a fractured forearm in Week 3.

If there is a major health positive right now, it is that three pivotal starters – linebacker Leonard Floyd, guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Allen Robinson – all approach the start of practices fully cleared. Those represent two Pro Bowl players (Long, Robinson) and one the Bears expect to be (Floyd).

“One of the traits we look for in players is durability and availability,” said GM Ryan Pace. “Leonard is a very talented player with a lot of natural pass rush ability. But in order for him to reach that production, he needs to be on the field. I know he’s worked a lot on his body, he’s worked a lot on his techniques, so we just feel that if he can stay healthy, the production’s going to be there.”

*                          *                          *

Weather or not….

Matt Nagy’s first practice as Bears coach came under a cloud – literally – as the threat of rain and thunderstorms had the team waiting until the last minute to determine whether the session would be held on an outdoor field as planned or indoors at a gymnasium on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.

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The outlook for Roquan Smith when he signs….

Training camp has begun without the presence of No. 1 pick Roquan Smith as his agents and the Bears work out contract details. Few expect a protracted impasse and Smith’s development may be delayed but unlikely denied. Smith had been cycled in with the No. 1 defense, as were a number of the top newcomers to the ’18 Bears. That process is expected to resume whenever Smith’s deal is concluded.

Extended holdouts are never positive, for either side, but are not necessarily career-impacting. Quarterback Cade McNown missed the initial 11 days of his first (1999) training camp, eventually started, but whether because of shoulder injuries or talent shortcomings, or both, never played to his status as the 11th-overall pick. Cedric Benson’s rookie season (2005) was dramatically undermined by his 36-day holdout, but he had two more seasons after that and needed a move to Cincinnati where he averaged more than 1,000 yards over four Bengals seasons.

Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first four weeks of the Chargers’ 2016 camp, then missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, but came off of that to be named defensive rookie of the month for October and finish with 10.5 sacks and defensive rookie of the year honors.

 

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

It is Day 1 of practice in Bourbonnais. Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin and producer Paul Aspan discuss how Matt Nagy's desire for a physical camp reconciles with the No. 1 goal of all training camps: stay healthy.

Plus, why there are only two real questions for the Bears in this camp - and they both involve QBs. And Akiem Hicks is one of the best Chicago free agent signings ever...but let's slow down with the Legion of Boom comparisons in the secondary.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: