Bears

Bears could find answer to tight end need at Senior Bowl

Bears could find answer to tight end need at Senior Bowl

It has been a position of interest for the Bears ever since they established the early standard for tight end with Mike Ditka a half-century ago. But it has too often been a position of concern ever since, a situation that could be remedied with a draft move based on potentially the right mix of need and grade.
 
Consensus has tight end as one of the deepest positions in the upcoming draft, with Senior Bowl attendees O.J. Howard from Alabama and Gerald Everett from South Alabama rated as two of the top three prospects at a position where the Bears have had moments — and issues — with Martellus Bennett (attitude) and Zach Miller (injuries) over the past several seasons. The Bears got 20 catches from waiver-pickup Daniel Brown last season but little impact from free-agent-acquisition Logan Paulsen. With unsettled situations at wide receiver, a productive draft pick at tight end becomes a priority amid the higher profiled situations at quarterback and defensive back.
 
"I thought [Howard] was the best player on the field if you look at either of the practices," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said via video on ChicagoBears.com. "He was outstanding, several one-handed catches. Everything he does is just so smooth and easy."

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The Bears had designs on Arkansas' Hunter Henry in the 2016 draft, but the San Diego Chargers snatched the Razorbacks standout with the fourth pick of the second round. The Bears were sitting at No. 10 in the round and, having already traded up in round one for Leonard Floyd, were not in a position to jump up again for Henry, particularly with a good grade on Cody Whitehair, whom they were able to land after two trade-downs. 

Henry put up 36 catches and 8 touchdowns as a rookie, an indication that the Bears had correctly identified a talent.

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.