31 questions to Bears camp: How good can the RB position be?

When the Chicago Bears report to Halas Hall for training camp, running back will be an important position to keep an eye on. Workhorse David Montgomery will lead the way, while fifth-year veteran Tarik Cohen returns from a torn ACL sustained in 2020. Damien Williams will provide some quality veteran depth, especially after having played in an offensive system similar to the Bears while with the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons in 2018 and 2019. Khalil Hebert, Artavis Pierce, Ryan Nall, and C.J. Marable will provide depth, making running back one of the deepest positions on the roster.

How good Chicago’s running backs can be will hinge on how quickly the offensive line gels, potentially setting the stage to be one of the NFL’s best running back rooms this year. Montgomery returns fully healthy, looking to take another step forward, realizing his true potential as a dual-threat running back.

“It wasn’t enough for me last year, knowing my untapped potential that I have within myself,” Montgomery said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Just being more vocal, being able to stand what I say and allow my words to carry a lot of strength when I speak. Doing all things right at all times.”

Halfway through the 2020 season, Chicago’s offensive philosophy changed, becoming a pass-first offense over a seven-week span. The Bears failed to rush for 100 or more yards in this same time span, before making a switch at quarterback, which allowed the running game to flourish.

“Biggest thing for me that clicked, just the mentality for everybody,” Montgomery said. “We all just trusted in each other. We believed that something was going to work. It’s embracing the role that is meant for me, whatever that may be. I think I could have done better for my guys around me.”

Montgomery will lead the way but the Bears will have plenty of contributions from Cohen and Williams, two players who provide additional value in the passing game, allowing head coach Matt Nagy to get creative with matchups.

“Being that I’ve been in this offense, I could give out pointers here and there but these guys, they’re great, they know what they’re doing,” Williams said via the Bears official YouTube page. “So all I can do is give my vet, my little things here and there of what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen. I’m just trying to get in here like the rookie kid and fit in.”

As Chicago continues to prepare for the 2021 season, running back is a positional group where the potential is unlimited, generating plenty of excitement.

Chicago Bears: Biggest questions at the RB position

The Chicago Bears will begin training camp at Halas Hall in just over two weeks and one position that can be labeled as the best on the team is running back. Featuring workhorse running back David Montgomery and complementary pieces in Tarik Cohen and Damien Williams. Depth also exists with players like Artavis Pierce, Ryan Nall, C.J. Marable, and Khalil Herbert, giving the Bears multiple players with a dual-threat skillset.

As Chicago continues to prepare for the 2021 NFL season, let’s get into three questions regarding the running back position.

1) How good can Montgomery be in 2021?

“It wasn’t enough for me last year, knowing my untapped potential that I have within myself,” Montgomery said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Just being more vocal, being able to stand what I say and allow my words to carry a lot of strength when I speak. Doing all things right at all times.”

As Montgomery enters year three, Chicago’s revamped offensive line should allow for him to see an increase in production with 2000 yards from scrimmage being a reasonable expectation. Montgomery clearly has high expectations of himself, looking to become one of the NFL’s best running backs, joining names like Christian McCaffery, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara.

If Montgomery takes the next step forward, he’ll be eligible for a contract extension next offseason but to have a breakout season, Chicago also needs to continue feeding Montgomery and using his dual-threat skillset to the fullest advantage.

2) How much do Cohen and Williams open up the offense?

Chicago added Williams this offseason and with Cohen returning, the Bears will be able to run multiple plays featuring two-back sets. Both players have shown the ability to be dual-threat playmakers, impacting Chicago’s running and passing attack.

Cohen and Williams will also allow Nagy to get creative in terms of playcalling, while providing quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields with mismatches against linebackers, freeing up wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney for additional deep throws.

3) Is Khalil Herbert being slept on?

Chicago drafted Herbert with the 217th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. During his lone season at Virginia Tech, Herbert averaged nearly 27 yards per return, showcasing the ability to be an electric player on special teams.

“They really want me to come in here and learn as much as I can,” Herbert said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Establish a role on special teams, they’re really big on that. Getting in my playbook, learning as much as I can to help contribute to the team in some way or form”.

Herbert should carve out a role on special teams, giving the Bears a long-term option as a returner but he should be given opportunities to impact Chicago’s running and passing game throughout his rookie season.

New York Giants Division Rival Release Player At A Position Of Need

On Monday morning it was announced that the Washington Redskins had released safety D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger was cut due to repeated public criticism of the coaching staff. However, he has been an excellent player this season and should draw interest from many teams, including the New York Giants.

Swearinger As A Player

D.J. Swearinger is a strong safety who spent his last two seasons with the Redskins. Swearinger has a combined 51 tackles this season, and 79 tackles last season. He played primarily as a strong safety after the Redskins traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but he has the ability to play free safety too. Swearinger is 27 years old and has played for four teams in his six year career. The hard-hitting safety forced three fumbles while additionally recording one fumble recovery and even one sack this season. In two seasons with Washington, Swearinger totaled 20 passes defended and eight interceptions. This is consistent high-level play by the veteran that the Giants lack from that position.

How Could He Fit In The Giants’ Defense?

For the Redskins this season, Swearinger played strong safety. The Giants have former all-pro Landon Collins on their roster as a strong safety, so it may look like they have no need for Swearinger. However, Collins has just undergone surgery and is a free agent this offseason. If the Giants decide not to resign Collins, Swearinger is a player they would take a look at. If the Giants do resign Collins, there are still reasons why they might consider signing Swearinger.

Firstly, a position change could be on the horizon for Landon Collins. Collins is a run stuffing strong safety who plays like more of a linebacker than a safety. This is due to Collins’s lack of coverage ability. Collins was getting picked on by opposing teams in coverage all season leading up to his injury. Most notably was the Bears game where running back Tarik Cohen hauled in 12 receptions for 156 yards, including a 46 yard reception in which Collins was in coverage.

Due to his inability to play as a coverage safety, Collins could have his position switched to become a full-time linebacker. This would not be the first time defensive coordinator James Bettcher has done something of the sorts. During his time in Arizona, Bettcher switched safety Deone Bucannon over to linebacker due to his inability to cover.

In this scenario, Landon Collins would move down to linebacker and Swearinger would play strong safety. This would be a great move for the Giants, however, it would still leave a gaping whole at the free safety position.

Another way the Giants could use Swearinger would be by moving him over to the free safety position. Swearinger is more of a run support safety than a coverage safety, but for a run support safety he is great in coverage. He also had four interceptions this season and 10 passes defended.

The Washington safety is also the highest graded defensive back covering in-routes this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He played strong safety with Haha Clinton-Dix playing opposite of him at free safety with Washington. Those two elevated each other’s play and the pairing of Collins and Swearinger would likely do the same.

The Giants have holes at multiple positions and safety is one of them. With the inconsistent play of Curtis Riley, it is likely the Giants will be in the market for another safety this offseason. Multiple names will come up when discussing the Giants’ options, and D.J. Swearinger needs to be one of them.