Chicago Bears' run game still a big question mark
The consensus national view of the 2019 Chicago Bears from outside Bears nation ranges from talented young club with a lot left to prove, to could be one-year wonders until they show us more.
I'm actually a bit surprised by how many analysts appear to be floating in the latter camp.
Locally, the view is a lot more upbeat with the consensus being something like one of the most talented young rosters in the league with a number of youngsters still well below their ceilings and very few holes on the depth chart.
I'm a native who shares this second interpretation, but I'd like to think I'd feel exactly the same way about these Bears if I wasn't.
The defense already is special and has a chance to get even better.
The young quarterback took a giant leap forward in just his second season and first in a highly complicated new offense and still has a lot of room to grow.
The receivers group is as versatile and talented as any in the conference, and the offensive line, while not a top-five group, does boast three Pro Bowlers if you're willing to count alternates.
The conventional wisdom is -- beyond the obvious concerns about place-kicker -- that tight end is the biggest question mark, and that's not a belief I would challenge either.
There is, however, one other position that continues to nag at me and that's running back, or more accurately whether the Bears will run the ball well enough for the offense to make the leap it must if the Bears are to actually contend.
Listen, with Matt Nagy as the reigning NFL coach of the year and general manager Ryan Pace his counterpart as executive of the year, I am not questioning Nagy's ability to run the ball or Pace's ability to scout backs.
If questions at the position come down to their view or mine, I'm going with them 24/7, every day and twice on Sunday.
But perfect just hasn't been invented yet, and any suggestion that Jordan Howard was the problem with the ground game last year is simply laughable.
There is nothing wrong with simply acknowledging that Howard, while one of the top backs in the league, just wasn't a good fit for how Nagy wants to run and moving on made sense.
Change can be good, but by itself swapping out Howard for David Montgomery and Mike Davis doesn't make the Bears a better running team.
A healthy Kyle Long and flipping Cody Whitehair to guard and James Daniels to center should definitely help, but it's still not the end all, be all.
It was interesting that when asked about Montgomery on Sunday in Decatur, Pace hedged his bet ever so slightly saying, "He can do everything.
"When we're just in shorts, you showcase your routes and your quickness and your athleticism, but now we're getting into the physical part of the game and I guess that's where I'm anxious to see that, is just what we saw in college translate to the league."
But when asked about Davis, Pace replied, "We were really excited when we signed him, obviously. Mike's had a great off-season and we're fortunate to have him."
Just a few minutes later, Nagy added about Davis: "Mike Davis has done really, really good things these OTAs. I like that about him."
However in four years in the NFL with two teams if you take away one game in Week 4 of last season when he rushed 21-101 against Arizona's 32nd-ranked run defense, Davis has made the field in just 35 games, earned nine starts and rushed 215-761, 3.5.
He has never been more than a No. 3, but now off his summer work, which isn't enough to tell us everything about Davis, we are supposed to feel confidant he's an upgrade?
Montgomery and Davis are great young men and might very well be ready to explode and flourish in the scheme they've been waiting for.
I (we) hope so.
And Pace and Nagy are light years beyond having earned the benefit of the doubt.
But if you're not still just a bit worried about the Bears' ground game, you had best be sure you're not being overly optimistic.
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.