In this week’s edition of ‘Take 2,’ Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times and Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly go back and forth on the Bears’ situation at running back after Jordan Howard’s big game.
Fishbain: Do we have a running back controversy on our hands? Jordan Howard won the hearts of Bears Nation with his 111 yards in the first win of the season, Patrick, and he certainly looked pretty darn good as a pure runner. But before we completely forget about Jeremy Langford, who is still expected to be out for a month or so with his ankle injury, let’s remember that Howard did that against a bad run defense behind an offensive line that has continued to improve. Still, though, isn’t this setting up a good problem for the Bears to have, a team that wants to run it a ton with multiple backs?
Finley: Bingo, Kevin. Howard was both good and exciting, and that’s a fascinating combination for Bears fans. Remember, they’ve seen Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte leave in the last two years, watched Kevin White miss last season— and now most of this one — and Alshon Jeffery struggle with injury. When was the last time they had reason to be excited about a skill position position player? So Sunday was important from a football and PR perspective. Is there a controversy? In John Fox’s perfect world, the Bears are playing a wave of running backs anyway. So does it matter?
Fishbain: We live in a fantasy football world, Patrick, of course it matters! Fans want to know who is going to get the most fantasy points each week. What will be interesting is when Langford comes back – and I’ll throw Ka’Deem Carey in this conversation, too – what Dowell Loggains does in goal-line and short-yardage situations. Howard has the build, Carey has that forward push with all his runs and Langford has the experience. So, to pander to our loyal fantasy football players, it matters who will get the most touches and the ones that can lead to touchdowns. How would you divvy out those carries?
Finley: Well, I wouldn’t stop giving Howard the ball until he gives me a reason to. Do you realize, Kevin, that he had the Bears’ first 100-yard rushing game since the season opener last year? Or that his 111 yards almost doubled the Bears’ single-game high this year, which was Langford’s 57? Blame the opponent all you want, but those are numbers I like. If Howard’s still hot in a month, I think Langford makes for a perfect third-down back – he’s their best pass blocker and, despite last year’s struggles, can catch. We all know that the running back is only part of the equation, though; if the offensive line has truly gelled, would the Bears be running a risk of messing up a good thing by swapping in a new starting rusher?
Fishbain: With upcoming games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Howard will have more opportunities to win the hearts of Bears fans and coaches as the lead back. Green Bay will be the ultimate test, the way they’re stopping the run, but Fox has always talked about sticking with the ‘hot hand.’ If Howard has two more good games, I don’t think they would want to change things up. Remember, this is a staff that had no issue benching players last season. I do think we need to remember that even if Howard is the No. 1 back, we won’t see him getting 93 percent of the snaps when Langford returns, right?
Finley: I’d hope not. It would be unfair to Howard to put him in that situation – and bad news for the Bears, too. Not everyone is Matt Forte. The good news is, they don’t have to be. Coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace have spent the past two years swearing that they didn’t need a do-everything back, and actually preferred a stable of players with specific strengths. Until those guys get healthy, though, they’re certainly permitted to get excited about Howard, one of the season’s few bright spots.