What do the Bears have in their running backs? They’re about to find out

USA Today

What do the Bears have in their running backs? They’re about to find out

The Bears were pleased with what they saw from their overhauled running back room during non-padded OTA and minicamp practices during the spring, but consider that an incomplete evaluation. 

David Montgomery, in particular, impressed with his quickness, athleticism and route running. Nothing Mike Davis showed dissuaded the team from believing in the free agent signing’s untapped potential. Positive things were said about seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr. and second-year undrafted free agent Ryan Nall. 

The only running back returning from 2018’s unit is Tarik Cohen. But while Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and the Bears’ talent evaluators did their homework on their new players, they won’t really get to see what they have until the pads come on in Bourbonnais (Nagy expects the first padded practice of training camp to be Sunday). 

“I know (Montgomery) kept asking coach, ‘when do we put the pads on?” Pace said. “And so we’re to that point. One of his greatest strengths is his contact balance and his ability to break tackles, and now we’re at a point where that can be showcased.”

It’s one thing for a rookie to stand out during OTAs and minicamp. Tight end Adam Shaheen did two years ago, bodying up NFL-caliber defenders to make some impressive plays in those non-padded practices. But he faded when pads came on in training camp and didn’t play a significant role in 2017’s dour offense. 

The Bears believe Montgomery’s ability to break tackles — he forced the most missed tackles among FBS running backs in 2018 with 99, per Pro Football Focus — will translate to the NFL, giving their ground game a dimension it didn’t have in 2018. Jordan Howard avoided 22 tackles on rushing attempts last year, 28th in the NFL and nearly half the total of Kareem Hunt. Hunt appeared in 11 games (five fewer than Howard) before the Kansas City Chiefs released him after video surfaced of him pushing and kicking a woman; Montgomery’s style of play has favorably been compared to Hunt’s.  

As for Davis, Pace said: “I think I feel like he’s a little bit under the radar right now. Mike’s had a great offseason and we’re fortunate to have him. That’s a strong room — we talk about the receivers, we feel the same way about the running back room. And Mike Davis is a real important part of that.”

The Bears feel like Montgomery, Davis and Cohen leading their running back room will allow them to be less predictable and more efficient on offense. Last year, Howard carried the ball two-thirds of the time he was on the field, while he was targeted with a pass on just six percent of his plays. Yet no skill position player (except Mitch Trubisky, of course) was more involved in the Bears’ offense last year — 33 percent of the Bears’ total plays involved Howard. 

All three of the Bears’ top running backs in 2019 will be expected to catch passes out of the backfield as well as running the ball with a blend of efficiency and explosiveness. We’ll begin to find out this week in Bourbonnais if Pace’s overhaul of that corner of his depth chart will produce the results the Bears’ offense needs. 

After a night of questionable calls, the Bears are still looking for clarity on roughing calls

USA Today

After a night of questionable calls, the Bears are still looking for clarity on roughing calls

One of the more under-appreciated aspects of winning an NFL football game is that the conversation that follows typically doesn’t involve the refs. But when you lose a heart breaker in part because, say, Bradley Chubb was flagged for roughing the passer on a pretty clean-looking hit – that’s when you get reactions like this, from Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe: 

“What I want to know is where did the second come from?,” he said.  “The commissioner needs to review that. That’s our win. Time is gone. They ran out of time.” 

There’s no denying that the Bears benefited from the Chubb miss, which the NFL tepidly defended by calling it ‘a judgement call.’ There’s also no denying that they had their own share of trouble with bad calls – most notably on this QB pressure from Eddie Goldman: 

And this hit courtesy of Leondard Floyd: 

After the game, both seemed at a loss regarding how to avoid those types of calls in the future; Floyd never even got clarification. 

“They haven’t explained it yet,” he said. “I didn’t realize it would be a penalty. That’s my bad.” 

“Sometimes those [calls] can get into that subjectiveness there of how it is, and when they're landing on guys, they're looking for that little extra oomph,” Matt Nagy said on Monday. “So, it's not an easy job by any means for them to see that. I know it's something that they're going to be looking at because it is difficult when you're a D-lineman, or whoever you are, tackling him.” 

Through two games, it hasn’t been the number of penalties they’ve had, but the yardage they’ve lost that’s hurt them the most.  They’ve been flagged 17 this season – tied for 4th-most in football – though 11 NFL teams already have at least 17, so that’s not as bad as it sounds. What is a bit more concerning, though, is how only two teams (Minnesota, Cleveland) have had more yards taken away through flags than the Bears (176). 

“That’s football, man,” Akiem Hicks said. “You’re going to get good calls, you’re going to get those calls, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to come out on the right side. You can’t let that stuff slow you down.” 

So then how, as a diving 300-pound lineman, do you manage to avoid showing that ‘extra oomph’ when literal physics are working against you? Is there some secret solution? 

“Yeah,” deadpanned Eddie Goldman, “not [landing] on him.” 

Under Center Podcast: Bears win as Eddy Pineiro bursts onto the NFL scene

Under Center Podcast: Bears win as Eddy Pineiro bursts onto the NFL scene

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Bears found a way to win on the road in Denver thanks to a wild final minute of the game.

Olin Kreutz, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and host Laurence Holmes break down the victory and debate whether the Bears can be a legitimate Super Bowl contender playing like this. Are the Bears making any progress on offense and what are opposing defenses doing to limit Mitchell Trubisky? Plus, a look ahead to Week 3 against Washington and what the guys want to see the Bears do to get going in the right direction.

0:38 – “The Eddy Pineiro Game”

2:40 – Bears deserve credit for finding Pineiro

8:13 – Is the Bears offense making progress?

10:19 – What are offenses doing to Trubisky?

15:25 – Can the Bears be contenders playing like this?

18:12 – What’s going on in the Bears backfield?

21:40 – Expectations vs Washington next week

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast


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