Bears

Hub Arkush: Running back should be bright spot for Bears

Chicago Bears' David Montgomery runs past Green Bay Packers' De'Vondre Campbell during the first half Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

That the Bears’ win total for this year sits at 6 ½ at most sportsbooks and already has come down from seven tells us most folks believe the Bears are going to be a bad football team in 2022.

So how do we put our happy faces on with these Bears?

The key is accepting it was practically guaranteed they’d get worse before they got better once the decision was made that a complete overhaul was the best direction to go.

Remember what general manager Ryan Poles told us after Day 2 of the NFL draft.

“We’re just going to keep pounding and pounding, knowing that we can’t fix everything in one year, but we sure can just keep chipping away,” Poles said.

Of course, he knows his offensive line and wide receiver corps aren’t good enough, his quarterback is still very much an unknown, and, in fact, that’s the story of almost his entire roster, but that’s part of the process.

So why not give equal time to their best assets and where they already show promise?

That clearly starts at running back, where David Montgomery performs at a Pro Bowl level when healthy. Additionally, Khalil Herbert showed tremendous promise as a rookie who eventually could start, Darrynton Evans and Trestan Ebner are intriguing depth pieces, and fullback Khari Blasingame brings a whole new dimension to the backfield.

All four running backs – Montgomery, Herbert, Evans and Ebner – are similar talents and interchangeable parts ideally suited for new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s West Coast-based offense and outside zone-run scheme.

Rookie running backs coach David Walker recently spoke highly of Montgomery.

“The thing I like about David is he doesn’t feel like he’s arrived yet,” Walker said. “I really like his makeup in terms of wanting to get better, pushing himself to get better.”

Walker also shared thoughts on Blasingame’s skill set.

“You don’t have to have pads on to just watch and feel him in terms of toughness,” Walker said. “He’s going to be able to do some things for us outside of the traditional fullback role of just being an elite blocker.

“He’s got some skills. He’s a fullback by trade. … He can handle the ball and do some things.”

Not only does the group bring both proven talent and exciting upside, they are perfect fits for what Getsy wants to do and could prove to be as valuable to quarterback Justin Fields’ development as better talent on the line and at wideout will be eventually.

Walker is a Herbert fan, too.

“Some guys try to pick and poke and wait to see what’s going to happen,” Walker said. “He’s very decisive. Each day you see a bit of burst, a little change of direction. The moment won’t ever be too big for him. He’s got that kind of makeup.”

Last year, Fields converted only 10.5% of his total completions to running backs, while the Packers offense Getsy helped guide hit 14.5% of its completions to its backs, and Montgomery and Herbert have shown that to be a strong part of their games.

Wherever the offensive line is at, almost all linemen are better run blocking than in pass protection, and Blasingame will add a whole new dimension both as a blocker and receiver.

We also know the outside zone-read attack not only plays to the strengths of the Bears’ backs, but the more effective it is, the more space it will create for Fields on RPOs, particularly in the middle zones with linebackers and safeties forced to defend the run first.

At the end of the day, the talent at running back along with the new scheme should create a lot more manageable third-down situations for Fields, open more space for all his receivers and for him to make more big plays with his arm and his legs.

Success of any kind usually breeds growth.

I can’t say if this was his plan or not. But Poles has done a very nice job with this backfield group. Even if it’s the only one – or one of the few on the depth chart for now – this position group will be the envy of a number of teams around the league.

And while subtle, focusing here first Pole’s probably done more so far to aid Fields’ development than anyone’s giving him credit for.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.