Bears-Colts in Bourbonnais? Watch for the 2016 preseason schedule


Bears-Colts in Bourbonnais? Watch for the 2016 preseason schedule

INDIANAPOLIS – Both the Bears and Indianapolis Colts finished up their two-day practice gig pleased with the results, delighted that there were no fights and only occasional displays of ill temper, and willing to do this kind of thing again next year, maybe at Bears camp in Bourbonnais at Olivet Nazarene University.

“Yes, absolutely, I would love to,” said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “It’s too close to me [not to practice with the Bears]. You’re two and half-hours or whatever it is. You’re too close not to do it.”

That may depend on the NFL schedule makers, however.

[MORE BEARS: Bears-Colts bucking trend: no fights in first joint practice]

This year worked out because of geography and the fact that the Bears play the Colts this Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, so they were going to be in the neighborhood anyway.

It also helps that Pagano and John Fox have an excellent relationship.

“We’re both going to be very open minded about doing it,” Fox said. “I thought it went probably better than any time I’ve ever done this against an opponent. I think the location works.

“[But] so much of it is how the preseason schedule works. [In the] second week [of preseason] I really like. It was good timing; I don’t know I would like it any earlier, and you start getting to that third game, trying to get into your in-season schedule. So the timing of it was great and it worked out really well.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Both teams are looking beyond just the two days of work for the true impact of the joint work.

“I think coming off these two days, we’re all going to look back on it and say this was extremely beneficial to our development as a football team and they’re probably going to say the same thing,” Pagano said. “So we’d love to do [practice with the Bears] and continue to.”

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.