Bears OL Draft Preview: Rebound in 2015 a must but not via draft


Bears OL Draft Preview: Rebound in 2015 a must but not via draft Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2015 NFL Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what could be in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

The offensive line went from a strength in 2013, with the same five starting all 16 games, to a mess in 2014 because of injuries and substandard play in some areas. The brightest spot was Kyle Long taking another step toward “elite” status with a second Pro Bowl in as many NFL seasons, and developing to the point of prompting a discussion of where best he fits.

Whether Long remains at guard or moves to tackle, the Bears are generally set with Long, tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson, who missed 11 games with ankle and chest injuries.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: Lack of deep speed makes WR 'high' need]

The offense lost center Roberto Garza, who had established a rapport and trust level with Jay Cutler after Olin Kreutz stayed away from training camp in 2011 and eventually went to New Orleans. But the transition is eased with the signing of Will Montgomery, joining his fifth team after playing for John Fox in Denver last season and in Carolina in 2006.

The situation at the fifth line spot is relatively open, only because Jordan Mills struggled with coming back from a broken foot. At one point the Marc Trestman coaching staff considered shifting him to guard before leaving him at right tackle. Mills may still secure the fifth starting position but that will be up to a new coaching staff to determine.

Bears draft priority: Low

Bears offensive line draft selections have been spotty at best, save the occasional Long, Kreutz or Jimbo Covert. It is a difficult evaluation gap between college and NFL levels of performance.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

Fortunately the Bears are not in the position they were when they had to add an offensive lineman and snagged Long. Or when they needed a tackle and used No. 1’s for Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi. Free agency provided for the center transition from Garza at least for the next couple years.

Keep an eye on..

Jamon Brown, Louisville: A right tackle coming from a good program taking care of Teddy Bridgewater.

T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh: Possible second-rounder visited Bears; converted D-lineman with big upside.

Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin: Massive (6-7, 324) right tackle proven run blocker for Melvin Gordon and Monte Ball.

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.