Committee approach in Bears backfield will be odd sight for fans

Treating backs like workhorses has been the norm in Chicago, but it's about to change.

One of the great mysteries about this Bears season will be how running backs are used in terms of carry numbers and overall touches.

Coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace have been about as vague as possible, beyond saying a committee approach is favored. It's really not going to be apparent what this means until the regular season begins. OTAs start next week and they'll be no more revealing than training camp or preseason games.

"We envision a scenario where they’re all contributing in different areas," Pace said after the draft. "We feel good about that (running back) room now. Really good about that room.

"They all bring a little bit of different things to the table. Matt and I were just talking about it — the different things we can do with all the backs in that room."

It has to be assumed third-round pick David Montgomery will get his carries as the version of what Nagy had with Kareem Hunt in Kansas City. Then again, with veteran Mike Davis also in the mix, and Tarik Cohen, it's possible one of them might get more rushing attempts at least until Montgomery adapts to the pro game.

"For us we always want to go about taking the best players, the best talent that's out there and fitting it into what we do," Nagy said. "And I don't know where it's going to go but I feel strongly about that position. Ryan does. And who these guys are.

"But I think the beauty in all of it is these type of people that we have. They just want to do it together. They care about each other."

If it becomes a shared carries situation, it's going to take a while for Bears fans to adjust.

It's just something not done here, pretty much ever.

There have been a few isolated seasons where the number of carries came out similar for backs due to extenuating circumstances.

In Matt Forte's first season, 2008, he had to carry 316 times and catch 63 passes. It became a crusade after that to get him some help because no one wants to overwork a back to that degree. They brought in Michael Bush, Marion Barber and Chester Taylor to relieve some of the pressure, but it never became anything closer to shared duties than a 2-to-1 carries ratio.

Still, the Bears never really achieved this, and in the John Fox years the closest they got to balancing the carries was Jeremy Langford getting 148 carries and Forte 218 carries in 2015.

Perha[s the last good example of it was 2007 when Cedric Benson had 196 carries, Adrian Peterson 151 and Garrett Wolfe 31, but many of Peterson's carries resulted from injuries to Benson.

When they made the Super Bowl the previous season, Benson had 157 carries but even then it was a 2-to-1 ratio since Thomas Jones had 296 attempts.

You'd have to go all the way back to 1996 to find true balance in carries with 194 by Raymont Harris, 143 by Rashaan Salaam and 60 by Robert Green, but again that was forced on them by Salaam's injuries.

It's always been a load back situation in Chicago, with Walter Payton, Anthony Thomas, Thomas Jones and Jordan Howard being the real workhorse types.

Nagy went into the 2017 season with Kansas City expecting he'd use a backfield committee approach, too. But a preseason knee injury to Spencer Ware resulted in Hunt hauling it 272 times and making 53 receptions.

If Montgomery fits in early, don't be surprised if the numbers tilt his way regardless of this committee approach. What might sway it in his direction even more is receiving skills.

"I think sometimes with all these running backs, you’re looking at projecting more in the pass game, too, with what they can do," Pace said. "We feel like he can be a good route runner.

"I think that can be expanded more. He has very natural hands. ... Just through the workouts and our vision for him, his game can be expanded."

Twitter@BearsOnMaven

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Thatbearsguy
Thatbearsguy

They say that garbage every year to keep interest of the backups. Montgomery will get his 60 percent of the carries.