Arkush: Could the Bears have one of the best groups of running backs in the NFL?

  • Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery finds a hole in the New York Giants defensive line during their game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery finds a hole in the New York Giants defensive line during their game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/3/2022 5:28 PM
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 12-part series as we get you ready for Bears training camp by looking at each position group on the depth chart, special teams and the new coaching staff. We’ll bring you brief scouting reports with pluses and minuses for every notable player, how each group stacks up against the rest of the NFL, project potential surprises and disappointments, the final 53-man roster and likely practice squad keepers.

By Hub Arkush

Shaw Local News Network

 

Running back is the most settled position on the Bears' roster and has an edge, for the moment, over the secondary as the most talented.

It is also, however, very young -- and the depth is still somewhat unproven with No. 2, 3 and 4 on the depth chart having just three combined seasons of experience. Next season also will have a very different look with the addition of a true fullback.

David Montgomery

Montgomery was a Top 4 back in combined yards from scrimmage in 2020 along with Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara. He was two spots ahead of Aaron Jones, the lead back in the Packers offense while new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was there.

He was on pace to be at least Top 8 again last year had he not missed 4½ games due to a knee injury.

Montgomery (5-10, 220) has perfect size, tremendous lower body strength and power, is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and lacks only elite speed.

In a contract year, he will be the focal point of the offense and likely to take advantage of it.

Biggest plus: In addition to great talent, Montgomery's emerged as a team leader with a tremendous drive to win.

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Biggest concern: Will his lack of speed -- 3.9-yard career average per carry -- limit his production?

Khalil Herbert

Herbert was a pleasant rookie surprise last season, filling in when Montgomery went down and even taking a few carries away from him when he came back.

He is a bit smaller than Montgomery, but has the same body type, running style and strong base and power.

Herbert showed signs of being a capable receiver and he was very effective returning kickoffs.

Biggest plus: Herbert can start when called on, or can be effective in a two-back tandem.

Biggest concern: We haven't seen enough yet to be sure.

Khari Blasingame

A free-agent pickup from the Tennesee Titans, Blasingame is the Bears' first pure fullback I can remember since Jason McKie, and every offensive disciple of Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur -- like Getsy -- has one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Biggest plus: He is a pure blocker for his backs and Fields, with just 3 rushes and 10 receptions in 32 NFL games.

Biggest concern: Blasingame (6-0, 233) is a bit undersized for the role.

Darrynton Evans

Evans (5-10, 203) was a third-round pick of the Titans in 2020 but got buried on the depth chart behind Derrick Henry, D'Onta Foreman and Jeremy McNichols.

He is the smallest of the Bears' top three, but he does have top RB speed at 4.41 in the 40. He never once put the ball on the ground in 482 carries at Appalachian State.

Biggest plus: His speed could provide an excellent change of pace from Montgomery and Herbert.

Biggest concern: Why did the Titans quit on him after just two seasons?

Trestan Ebner

This year's comp to Herbert coming in the sixth round of the draft, scouts called him the Swiss Army knife with interesting size (5-11, 206) and 4.43 speed in the 40 to go along with excellent production at Baylor, where he ran, received and returned kicks and punts.

He's the prototypical third-down back and will be in a clear competition with Evans to get those reps when Montgomery needs a blow.

Biggest plus: He fills multiple roles, possibly saving a roster spot or two for prospects at other positions.

Biggest concern: Counting on rookie sixth-round picks is unwise.

DeMontre Tuggle

Tuggle (5-8, 206) has 4.55 speed and is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Ohio University.

The skinny

Where they fit in NFL: Montgomery alone has them pressing to crack the Top 10. The rest will be determined by how much help they get from the offensive line, Getsy's new scheme and who the young backups become.

Potential: The run game will be featured so heavily in Getsy's scheme and used to protect and assist Fields; if the offensive line is improved, it could be one of the most productive groups in the league.

Surprises: Based on his first three seasons, determination and drive -- and this being a contract season -- my gut is telling me Montgomery will go to his first Pro Bowl.

Disappointments: While it feels unlikely, it's quite possible all but Montgomery could prove to be just guys.

Outcome: Montgomery, Herbert and Ebner will end up 1, 2 and 3, Blasingame will prove to be a valuable addition and that could force Evans to the practice squad.

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