Bears Grades: Jeffery, Miller come up big vs. Redskins


Bears Grades: Jeffery, Miller come up big vs. Redskins

Alshon Jeffery caught a team-high six passes for 107 yards, 20 of them coming on a touchdown pass from Jay Cutler late in the first half. Jeffery also gave the Bears a shot at a victory late in the fourth quarter when he broke to an open area in Washington’s zone coverage and hauling in the Cutler pass for 50 yards.

Jeffery thought he had a chance to score, “but I couldn’t read the defender,” he said.

[MORE GRADES: Quarterback ¦ Special teams ¦ Coaching]

Zach Miller unintentionally raised the question of “Martellus who?” as he caught his fifth TD pass of the season on a nine-yard throw from Jay Cutler. Miller made the catch and held onto the ball through two big hits at the goal line. The reception was one of Miller’s five, the fourth time in the last five games that he has caught at least five passes.

Miller’s 26-yard gainer in the fourth quarter converted a third-and-long was a superb route to get open, then second effort breaking tackles to sustain a critical possession with the Bears driving for a potential go-ahead score.

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“We’re right on the fringe of being really good and being really average, just with the mistakes we’re making,” Miller said. “For some odd reason we’re coming up short.”

Marc Mariani brought a Cutler-to-Matt Forte completion back with a pass-interference infraction when he blocked a defensive back out of coverage. But Mariani also picked his way through coverage to take a short pass 24-yards in the fourth quarter.

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.