Asked earlier this week if Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker were ”pushing” Kahlil Bell for the No. 3 running back spot on the Bears’ roster, offensive coordinator Mike Tice didn’t even bother to feign interest.
”I have other stuff to worry about,” Tice said. ”I’m not going to worry about who the third back is.”
Tice’s disinterest serves as a backdrop that puts the release of Bell on Thursday into the proper perspective. Bell is an NFL-quality running back who will probably help another team more than he was going to help the Bears this season. But regardless, barring major injuries to both Matt Forte and Michael Bush, the No. 3 running back is unlikely to matter in Tice’s offense this season.
Keeping Matt Forte happy with whatever touches he gets will likely be of greater concern — though probably not to Tice — because the Bears are going to be a passing offense in 2012. As Tice said early in training camp, pass blocking will determine who starts and who doesn’t on the offensive line. ”With all the great athletes we have who can catch the football … we’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback,” Tice said.
Tice also has a much greater appreciation for the importance of keeping Jay Cutler comfortable than Mike Martz did. And Cutler is never more comfortable when he’s throwing the football, especially with Brandon Marshall on his side.
And Cutler knows the importance of keeping Marshall happy. As Cutler said when making a case for acquiring Marshall in an interview on WMVP-AM’s ”Waddle & Silvy Show” in February, he talked about Marshall’s physical ability and aptitude for the game and instinct for the position, but also Marshall’s desire. ”He wants the ball every snap, which is a problem sometimes. And that’s why … he’s fun to play with,” Cutler said.
Barring injuries, the Bears will need a seventh wide receiver before they need a third running back this season. In Denver, the Broncos ran on 53 percent of their offensive plays in Jake Plummer’s last full season in 2005. With Cutler at quarterback, the Broncos’ run-play percentage dropped to 44 in 2007 and 38 in 2008, when the Cutler-Marshall connection was at its peak.
Kahlil Bell is everything the Bears want in a running back and did everything the Bears asked him to do. He was a good receiver out of the backfield, a willing blocker and when he needed to be a factor on special teams to make the roster last year he did it.
But considering the circumstances, cutting him now was the prudent move — and not just because Bell would have made $1.26 million this season and Armando Allen will make $390,000. The shiftier, faster Allen — the favorite to take the No. 3 running back spot –provides a change of pace that is likely to be more valuable to the Bears than a third back who runs like Forte and Bush.
And if he’s not, so what? The Bears have other stuff to worry about.