Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be?), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 25: Damien Williams
Position: Running back
NFL Experience: 7 years
Looking back: Williams spent 2018 and 2019 with the Kansas City Chiefs, winning Super Bowl LIV along the way, before opting out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic. Williams’ mother had recently been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and the health risks weren’t worth it for Williams and his family. In an interview this spring, Williams said watching the 2020 NFL season from home was difficult, but missing the sport helped him realize just how badly he wanted to keep playing. When he last saw the football field in 2019, Williams rushed for 498 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games for the Chiefs. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry, plus caught 30 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He also played a starring role in Super Bowl LIV, scoring a pair of touchdowns and totaling 104 rushing yards.
Looking forward: Williams adds a versatile weapon to head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. For the first time in a long while, the Bears might have a true backup for starting running back David Montgomery. While Tarik Cohen is a quality third-down back and a useful gadget, the Bears might be more comfortable giving Williams 15-to-20 carries if Montgomery were to go down with an injury. The fact is, injuries happen, especially at the running back position, where players are constantly putting their bodies in harm’s way. In the one game Montgomery missed due to a concussion last season, the Bears rushed for only 41 yards against the Vikings in November. Even if Montgomery makes it through the season healthy, Williams could prove a dangerous No. 2 with a burst of energy off the bench. He is a pass-catching threat and he’s already quite familiar with Nagy’s style of offense.