When you can’t run the football consistently well in the NFL, or even occasionally, your offense is guaranteed to have an ignition problem.
Admittedly I have been preaching about the Bears lack of a ground game since Dowell Loggains first began masquerading as an offensive coordinator and John Fox would become frustrated with my repeated questions about why he wouldn’t run the ball more than 35 percent or so of the time.
But the woods are full of much smarter football people than me who will assure you the rise of the Bears offense and Mitch Trubisky, if he is to become their franchise quarterback, or Nick Foles, should he secure the spot under center, is very much dependent on significant improvement running the football to at the very least keep defenses honest.
Matt Nagy himself has been open and clear that he knows it is crucial for the Bears to figure out how to run the football.
To that end, the club has brought in Bill Lazor, Juan Castillo and Clancy Barone to take over the offensive coordinator, offensive line and run game coordinator and tight end coaching jobs, and one of the mandates they’ve been given is teach the guys to run.
A reasonable start to be sure but also a certainty that none of those gentlemen are actually going to tote the rock.
And the greatest puzzle of the offseason for this scribe has been just who exactly is?
A quick survey of all 32 NFL team rosters reveals 15 have six running backs, six have seven, the 49ers, Packers and Lions have eight and the Steelers actually have nine.
Six teams are currently carrying only five ball carriers – three of which have Pro Bowlers - and the only team in the NFL with fewer than five backs is you guessed it, the Bears.
To be clear, I’m really excited by David Montgomery.
In fact I have him ranked as one of my top five prospects to be this year’s breakout offensive star in the league.
But the fact that he is backed up only by the diminutive Tarik Cohen, undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Nall and true rookie Artavis Pierce is near mind-boggling.
When I asked Ryan Pace about it last week he told me he really liked their talent and depth at the position but I’m hoping he misunderstood the question.
I don’t question the talent but the depth is nonexistent.
I tried to get running backs coach Charles London to reveal Cordarrelle Patterson is the secret weapon they’re counting on but all he told me was, “Cordarrelle’s obviously a very talented player who has played some running back in the past on some past teams he has been with.
“I’m sure as we continue to evolve on offense, we’ll see if maybe he fits somewhere, but I know we have big plans for Cordarrelle this year on offense in general.”
In spite of a baby step backwards last year, there is little doubt Cohen, a free agent at the end of the year, can be a special weapon. But I don’t see how you could give him the ball 18 to 20 times if Montgomery were to get nicked and I think London agrees.
“You know I think, if that was the case then you know you've got to factor in the other guys that are in the room," he said.
“We're very, we're very high on Ryan Nall and what he can do for us, and like I was saying, we're just trying to bring Artavis around and you know it would, we'd probably divide the runs up amongst the group like we would anyway.”
Nall has clearly been the best back on the team in training camp the last two seasons and I yearned often to see him get a chance in a real game.
But if the team is that high on him, why when he was finally activated the second half of last season did he only get two carries in eight games?
Hey, maybe I’m right about Montgomery and he can stay healthy for a full season, or perhaps Nall or Pierce is soon to be the next Phillip Lindsay.
But it just seems strange that a team with a Super Bowl-ready defense now and a window that isn’t likely to open much wider isn’t doing more to address its greatest remaining need.