The Chicago Bears rushed the ball the sixth most times in 2018 and had the eleventh most rushing yards, but they weren't happy with their 26th ranked yards per rush. The Bears revamped their running back room by trading Jordan Howard to the Eagles, signing free agent Mike Davis, and drafting David Montgomery. On paper, their 2019 rushing attack seems to be more committee based, with the electrifying Tarik Cohen returning, and wide receiver, and occasional running back, Cordarrelle Patterson also in the mix, but the most important change will come in the scheme. Or more specifically, being able to run the scheme that head coach Matt Nagy has envisioned for his offense.
A year ago, with Howard as the primary running back, the Bears were limited. Sure he worked on his hands, but his skill set didn’t allow him to split out and line up as a receiver, so when he was in the game it was usually to run the ball or to pass block. With Montgomery and Davis added, the Bears won’t be as predictable as both can be moved around the offense and both are quicker to get going after catching a swing pass out of the backfield. This unpredictability in scheme and formation, should give the Bears’ run game a boost.
A year ago they ran 29 times each game, including quarterback scrambles and wide receiver runs, and they were led by Howard’s 15.5 attempts each week. Howard had 250 carries on the year which was 53% of the team’s total, and I can’t imagine anyone on the roster getting that many rushing attempts in 2019. Cohen was second on the team with 99 carries, followed by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with 68.
The Bears ran 1,013 total offensive plays a year ago, and I think that number goes up now that they’re in year two of the Nagy offense. Since I have the Bears projected with 585 passing attempts (you can find all my passing projections in this article), I’ll project them to have 495 rushing attempts to keep with the same run/pass ratio from a year ago. That’s just another rush per game, so it’s not very significant. I also think this group will get a couple more touchdowns from a year ago.
This year I have Montgomery leading the team in carries, with Davis coming in second, followed by Cohen, and then Trubisky. Patterson will get a few runs a game, both from tailback and on jet sweeps and end arounds from his customary wide out spot, but the top four rushers will make up the bulk of the attempts.
I’ll start my rushing projections with the returning Tarik Cohen, since I already mentioned his touches in my last article where I divvied up the receiving yards, and with his touches staying about the same I’m predicting his rushing attempts to take a small dip to 90 carries. A more diverse offense should lead to more open spaces for Cohen, so I see his yards per carry trending upwards.
Tarik Cohen: 90 attempts, 441 yards, 3 TDs
Montgomery may not open the season as the starter, but at some point he will take over as RB1. He’s a strong runner, he has great balance, and he has good vision. At a compact 222 pounds, he’s also likely to get the goal line and short yardage tries too.
David Montgomery: 171 attempts, 769 yards, 7 TDs
The Bears will still run a few read options each game, but I think Trubisky will hand-off more than a year ago. I also have his scrambles per game coming down a bit with his understanding of the offense, so while still a threat to run, he won’t need to do it as much in 2019.
Mitch Trubisky: 48 attempts, 299 yards, 2 TDs
Mike Davis is coming off his best year as a pro as a rotational back in Seattle, and I think he continues his solid play in the first year in Nagy’s system. When I watched his college and pro film, I saw a player that reminded me of Montgomery, although not as explosive, but he has all the traits the Bears want in a back.
Mike Davis: 109 attempts, 512 yards, 3 TDs
Patterson is another guy coming off a career high in rushing attempts, and I think Nagy has a few special plays and packages in mind to get the ball in his hands. He’s going to lined up all over and I think about 3 rushes a game fits for him.
Cordarrelle Patterson: 51 attempts, 306 yards, 1 TD
With wide receivers, tight ends, and linemen all candidates to get touches from the backfield, that leaves some wiggle room in my “other” category.
Other rushing: 26 attempts, 78 yards, 2 TDs
Next time out I predict the Bears' defensive numbers.