Bears position duels ramping up heading for Indy


Bears position duels ramping up heading for Indy

One bit of fallout from the first preseason game — any preseason game, really — is inevitably a bit of position-shuffling. In the case of Bears’ game against the Miami Dolphins, some of that shuffling was in process even before kickoff.

Note: The Bears have shown so many personnel lineups through practices that it would be difficult to definitively declare starters, particularly in the front seven, without knowing the exact defensive call or situation.

Safety has been a position the height of turmoil for much of the past decade for the Bears. It hasn’t settled down all that much, even without Chris Conte and Major Wright around.

Antrel Rolle was among the priority offseason signings, and he is ensconced at one safety spot. The other one has seen Ryan Mundy, who was second in tackles for the 2014 Bears and tied for team high in interceptions (four), go from starter to behind Brock Vereen, back to No. 1 and then back to backup (with Vereen) as rookie Adrian Amos came off a strong Miami game and into the starting lineup. For now.

“We thought enough of him to draft him,” coach John Fox said. “I think he's had opportunities just like all the other safeties to play and be evaluated and make plays. He's earned where he is.

“I don't know if that's the way it'll stay. It's not where you start the race, it's where you finish it. He's earned that, and we'll go from there.”

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Sam Acho and Pernell McPhee were the outside linebackers with the No. 1 unit for much of the early camp. But Jared Allen was No. 1 on the first depth chart and started against the Dolphins.

Then Acho delivered the best defensive performance — sack, tackle for loss, quarterback hit, interception, pass defensed — and was back in the mix with the apparent No. 1’s this weekend.

“Training camp is a time for evaluation; every practice, every game, every scrimmage is evaluated, so this is just the beginning of the evaluation process,” Acho said.

“It’s not about starting. At the end of the day, it’s about being productive. As a player I want to be productive, and then everything will take care of itself.”

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.