INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears’ interest in controversial running back Kareem Hunt only was a matter of a team doing its due diligence on an available player.
“With Kareem, did we talk about it? Yes. Was it serious? No,” general manager Ryan Pace said Wednesday. “We’d do our team a disservice if we didn’t discuss every scenario. We talked about it, but it never got serious.”
But if we’re reading between the lines correctly, the Bears certainly sound serious about adding another running back for coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
“When you’re dealing with running backs, in this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss,” Nagy said when asked about evaluating running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
“And at the same time, there’s that balance of being a hybrid, being able to make things happen in the passing game, too, where you’re not one-dimensional. That’s not easy.”
And that’s not exactly what Jordan Howard provides for the Bears, either.
It’s fair to question Howard’s place on the team. His 935 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per carry were career-worst marks — and they came during the Bears’ best season in his three years with the team.
Howard’s 20 catches and 26 targets also were career lows for him. Taquan Mizzell earned a role within Nagy’s offense, essentially taking away snaps from Howard as a pass-catching threat.
The Bears don’t have first- or second-round picks, but there are plenty of intriguing backs to consider, including Iowa State’s David Montgomery, Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary, Penn State’s Miles Sanders and Washington State’s James Williams.
The Chiefs and Cardinals drafted Hunt and David Johnson with the 86th overall selections in the 2017 and 2016 drafts, respectively. The Bears’ draft this year starts with the 87th pick.
Pace divulged that the Bears already met with a handful of running backs on Tuesday night.
“There’s a lot to learn,” Pace said.
Similar to Nagy, Pace mentioned vision as an important attribute for running backs. Vision was once considered a strength for Howard, who was the NFL’s second-leading rusher as a rookie in 2016.
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“When people talk about Jordan . . . you see with our identity as an offense, it’s just not an offense where you’re going to get 25 to 30 carries necessarily all the time or every game where he can expect that,” Nagy said. “We were all figuring out together, including Jordan, how we’re going to make this thing go. And he wasn’t the only one.”
As always, Nagy included himself in his criticism of the Bears’ running game. But the team’s offseason moves still are telling. The offensive line obviously wasn’t an issue for Pace or Nagy. If it had been, right tackle Bobby Massie wouldn’t have received a contract extension, and the Bears wouldn’t have kept right guard Kyle Long by restructuring his contract.
Last year during the combine, Howard was mentioned in trade rumors. But Nagy always was willing to give Howard a chance to prove himself. Despite scoring nine touchdowns last season, he’s still in a precarious spot.
The Bears want to improve their running game. If anything, that was made clear again in Indianapolis, and it might take a draft pick to do it.
“As the year went on, we had a little bit more of an identity of what we liked and what we didn’t like [in the running game],” Nagy said. “We still need to get better there, but there are other areas, too, that we need to improve. And I start with myself in regard to that with the running game and all different areas.”