Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears.
Not only was the move a complete disappointment for Bears fans but it also didn’t make Chicago much better. Maybe Dalton is an upgrade over Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, but quarterback should still be viewed as one of the weaker positions on the roster.
The running back position, however, is a different story. With the players the Bears have, this unit should be the focal point of the offense in 2021.
And it starts with David Montgomery — the fifth leading rusher in the NFL last season.
The former third-round pick from Iowa State finished with 1,070 yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 54 receptions and two receiving TDs. Montgomery accomplished all this despite the inconsistencies from the offensive line and missing one game due to a concussion.
Tarik Cohen’s 2020 season on the other hand was cut short after he tore his ACL in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons. A week before the injury, on Sept. 20, Cohen agreed to a three-year, $17.25 million contract extension.
And on Wednesday, the Bears signed former Chiefs running back Damien Williams to a one-year deal — completing what should be a balanced rushing attack in 2021.
Last season, Montgomery’s backup was Cordarrelle Patterson, who had the second-most rushing attempts on the team with 64. In the Week 10 matchup against Minnesota — the game Montgomery missed — Patterson was the lead back. Chicago finished with 149 total yards — the lowest in the Matt Nagy era. The blame doesn’t fall strictly on Patterson, but clearly the Bears needed another true running back they could rely on.
Now, though, the Bears have everything they need at running back. If Montgomery has to miss time, Williams has proven he can be a three-down back. Before opting out of the 2020 season, Williams dominated in Super Bowl LIV, going for 133 total yards and two touchdowns.
Cohen should get his opportunities in the backfield as well, but given receiver Anthony Miller’s inconsistent play (and the Bears looking to potentially trade him), Cohen may see an uptick at reps in the slot.
The only question remains, will coach Matt Nagy utilize his running backs and stick to the running game? In 2019, when the Bears had the trio of Montgomery, Cohen and Mike Davis, Chicago cut Davis in November. He went on to have a breakout year in Carolina in 2020.
This season will be different, though, because Nagy isn’t the one calling plays. Bill Lazor is the offensive coordinator, so the likelihood of the offense sticking with the running game increases.
Lazor took over as offensive coordinator in that Week 10 game against Minnesota, and over the last seven games, the Bears relied heavily on their rushing attack.
- First nine games: 200 carries, 741 yards and two touchdowns (Montgomery and Foles)
- Last seven games: 193 carries, 906 yards and 10 touchdowns
With some hopefully additions to the offensive line in the draft, the Bears should be set to be a strong running team in 2021.
In the three seasons Nagy has been in Chicago, an offensive identity has never been established. But going into Year 4, Nagy can help solidify what the Bears should be known as this upcoming season: a running football team.