Written by: John Stocco
The talk of the Chicago Bears has been centered around the elite defense and the development of Mitch Trubisky. Both of these topics have us fans and the Bears themselves in uncharted territories. In the modern-day, the Bears have never had an elite defense with an All-Pro quarterback; it’s just never been our identity. When Chicago was led by Butkus and Sayers, the Packers had Bart Starr. When we had Singletary and Payton, the Dolphins had Dan Marino. When the Bears had Urlacher and Forte, the Patriots had Tom Brady. Having a franchise quarterback has never been the Bears identity. Instead, Chicago had a smash-mouth defense and ground and pound running back who can also spin you out of your shoes. This time it’s different, or rather it’s trying to be different. Change is a beautiful thing. The Bears still have that identity of being a smash-mouth defense, but now they have a homegrown franchise quarterback who’s looking to take this team to heights they haven’t reached since 1985. All the while for the first the Bears backfield has gone unnoticed. Instead of the next great Bears running back who’s the talk of the town, it’s the quarterback who’s taking over the headlines just like every football team in the United States. The Bears running backs might not be dominating the headlines, but here’s why and how the Bears backfield could dominate games and keep the tradition of great Chicago Bears running backs alive.
Football is different in 2019. When looking for running backs you’re not looking for the biggest guy or even the fastest. Instead, you’re looking for a running back who has excellent vision, great instincts, can burst out of the backfield, possesses elite elusiveness, and has dependable hands that can line up as a receiver and run the route tree just as well. I’d love to go back and talk to a football scout from the ’80s and compare their notes to the notes we have on players now. It’s a new day and a new age in the same game. The Bears have three running backs that fit what every team is looking for when they’re evaluating running backs in 2019.
Mike Davis is going to bring the pain on the ground for the Bears in 2019. He’s the big man out of the backfield who’s tough to bring down. When you get a first look at Mike Davis, you think he’s just a typical goal-line back that’s only good for short downplays. Looks can be deceiving. Mike Davis is a hard running back to bring down and has excellent balance to where he can take a few hits, bounce off defenders, and stay on his feet, be it in the trenches, outside between the tackles, or catching out of the backfield. Rushing for 514 yards, 4.6 per attempt, receiving for 214 yards, and catching the football at an 81% rate, Davis has proven he’s a triple threat. Mike Davis is probably walking into training camp as RB3, but that isn’t a demotion on the Bears because, with Nagy’s love for using running back committees, there’s going to be times where we see Mike Davis lined up in the backfield with Tarik Cohen in motion, or lined up next to David Montgomery while Tarik Cohen is lined up at the slot. Adding Mike Davis makes the possibilities endless for Matt Nagy.
The Bears first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft was David Montgomery out of Iowa State in the third round, and the former Cyclone was labeled the steal of the draft by draft experts. Here’s why: Montgomery shows above-average hands, explosiveness, and agility. Whenever I studied David Montgomery in college, it wasn’t hard to spot a pro comparison almost immediately. When you watch Montgomery catch the ball, when you watch him burst through an open hole, and when you watch him split defenders and making the defender miss in open space, it’s hard to not compare him to Matt Forte. I know that sounds crazy because Matt Forte is one of the greatest running backs in Bears history, but the tape does not lie. The tape is similar to Matt Forte, but the traits that make Bears fans giddy is the measurables that are similar to Kareem Hunt. Why is that more exciting than the Matt Forte comp? Because Matt Nagy worked with Kareem Hunt, and when he did, Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing yards. Just like Hunt, Montgomery shows the ability to bounce in the backfield and make deadly cuts from inside to outside and vice versa that keeps the defense off balance. Their size, their versatility, and their burst out of the backfield is unquestionably great. Montgomery is already getting Rookie of the Year hype, and the hype is real because he’s going to steal the show whenever and wherever the Bears take the field.
When you think of Tarik Cohen, there are a lot of names that come to mind to describe the Bears running back. To me, it’s a “Total Package”. What is there that Cohen can’t do? He’s the smallest player on the team but that doesn’t stop him from being the biggest playmaker on the team. Cohen is dangerous in space, puts defenders on skates in open field, makes tough catches, and makes big plays after the catch, possessing vision, instincts, burst, exclusiveness, and the ability to be a wide receiver despite being a running back. All those traits that I described earlier in the article on what makes a great running back in today’s NFL, Tarik Cohen has all of those traits.
The Bears don’t have that one guy who they can feed 35 times a game and let him carry the offense to the endzone. The Bears have three running backs who are all starting caliber, and they all bring a purpose to Matt Nagy’s offense. Heading into training camp, I’m most excited to see how well these three running backs complement each other, and how much better this trio makes the Chicago Bears offense. While everyone talks about the Bears defense and tries to downplay the development of Mitch Trubisky, the three-headed monster in the backfield are going to be the workhorses for one of the most complete teams in the entire league.