By Bryan Dietzler
Last time we looked at the quarterback position for the Chicago Bears. This time we will look at the players that the Bears had at the running back spot. We will see how they performed in 2017, what their stats were and what things look like for 2018.
Jordan Howard-Jordan Howard had another great season with the Bears although he was banged up a little throughout the year. He had a shoulder problem that forced him to try run a different way (lead with the uninjured shoulder), but he never gave up and never missed a game. He was rendered somewhat ineffective as the year wore on having good and bad games.
Howard still rushed for over 1000 yards and helped lead a potent Chicago rushing attack.
Altogether, Howard rushed for 1122 yards on 276 attempts for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. His average per game was 70.1. He scored nine touchdowns. Howard also had 23 catches for 125 yards and no touchdowns. He did drop some critical passes.
Howard is going to be the starting running back again in 2018 barring injury. The Bears do need to give him some relief, however, so he doesn’t get beaten up so much. Chicago could help him out by finding another back that could carry the ball more or use Tarik Cohen more often. We will have to see what the new coaching staff the Bears just hired decides to do. But unless they think that Howard won’t fit the offensive scheme they put in, look for him to be the starter in 2018.
Tarik Cohen-Cohen burst onto the scene big in the Bears’ first game against the Atlanta Falcons and then had an up and down season. He wasn’t in at points where he should have been in the game. Sometimes, when he was in defenses figured out how to stop him. Cohen was a little hit or miss but he can be dynamic and a real asset to the team. That’s why they need to use him more.
In 2017, Cohen rushed a total of 370 yards on 87 attempts for an average of 4.3 yards and two touchdowns. He caught 53 passes for 353 yards and one touchdown. Cohen even threw a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a touchdown as well.
Cohen will be a bigger part of the offense next season now that new head coach Matt Nagy is on board. He could use Cohen similar manner as the Chiefs used Tyreek Hill. Expect a lot more quality action for him next season and making a bigger impact on offense.
Benny Cunningham-Cunningham had an interesting season. He spent some time on the sideline injured but when he was in the game, he had some strong contributions. Cunningham was an asset thanks to his ability to play special teams for the most part. His ability to catch passes and do some good with them was nice. But he signed just a one-year contract and so the Bears must decide if they are going to keep him or not.
In nine games 2017, Cunningham rushed a total of just 29 yards on nine attempts averaging .6 yards per carry. He caught 20 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Cunningham also returned kickoffs.
Keep an eye on what the Bears decide to do with Cunningham this offseason. Will they sign him to another deal or will they let him go? Is his value enough to keep him around or didn’t they get enough out of him to warrant bringing him back? Consider him a bubble player who may or may not be back with the Bears in 2018.
Taquan Mizzell-Mizzell saw just a little bit of action last year, in three games, but spent most of his time inactive. Therefore, it’s hard to know what the Bears have in him. Currently, he has two more years left on his contract. If the Bears were to let him walk, they would take a $555,000 cap hit. Not terrible. But you can bet that the Bears are going to try him out in training camp this summer and see how he works out.
Consider his ability to make the team in 2018 up in the air.
Don’t be surprised if Chicago decides to draft a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft. Granted it won’t be a high draft pick but they may be thinking of getting someone that can run in between the tackles with power, like Howard, to spell him and not have him wear out in games. They might be able to find a good undrafted free agent to do that too. We will have to see what they come up with.
Next season promises to be a strong one for the Chicago Bears’ running back spot. Expect to see some good things come out of it from all players involved. Hopefully, the new coaching staff will utilize the position effectively and help it improve. It could be a great year for Chicago running backs.