Battling Bears getting testy as practice intensity ratchets up


Battling Bears getting testy as practice intensity ratchets up

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Normally it takes a week or more and players wearing pads through full-contact practices in August heat for tempers to boil over. Not so the Bears.

Day 2 of training camp, the day before pads coming on, was marked by a couple of scrums of increasing hostility involving linemen, an indication perhaps of the intensity level likely to be on display when coach John Fox pushes the pedal down even further with pads.

First it was right guard Kyle Long sending linebacker Pernell McPhee flying with a block after McPhee had beaten right tackle Jordan Mills. McPhee gave Long a brief stare but he and Long quickly put an amicable end to the moment.

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Later, however, Mills and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins got into a brief skirmish at the end of play when neither was willing to let the other get in the final hit on the play. The incident dissipated. For the moment.

Jenkins delivered what appeared to be an elbow under Long’s chin late in a play several snaps later, Long went after Jenkins, and Jenkins then knocked Long to the ground with a blow as teammates scrambled to break up the combatants. Long had to be restrained by multiple teammates and play resumed.

Fox spoke privately with the players after their units were done their snaps and at the end of the session, Long and Jenkins exchanged back-pats and spoke briefly as the day closed on a quieter note.

“I mean, this is a combative game played by combative people and you know, you try to discourage it but I’m sure this won’t be the last one, I can pretty much guarantee that,” Fox said. “But like I said, it’s a combative game played by combative people and you just do you best to keep our guys healthy.”

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.