Bears' Running Game Still Figuring Itself Out

October 22, 2018 - 2:35 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Once upon a time, the Bears hoped to get off the bus with a focus on running the football each time they took the field. But these days, they're struggling to get a traditional ground game going.

Still building their identity under first-year coach Matt Nagy, the Bears have yet to sustain a strong running game on the strength of their running backs through six games. Starting running back Jordan Howard, who rushed for a combined 2,435 yards his first two NFL seasons, has run only 90 times for 311 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. 

Previously a workhorse for the Bears offense, Howard has averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. The rushing attack has been nearly abandoned at times, with Howard and fellow running back Tarik Cohen combining to carry 18 times for 53 yards in a 38-31 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky attempted 50 passes.

Because of Trubisky's mobility and scrambling prowess -- he's averaging 40.8 rushing per game -- the Bears actually rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards game, but they nonetheless admit they haven't established what they need to. So why is that?

"Learning this offense as a whole, all of us together and kind of going through this deal, the run game, trying to figure out the identity of who we are, has taken a little bit longer than the pass game," Nagy said Monday. 

The focus of this offense remains the 24-year-old Trubisky, who has completed 139 of his 211 passes for 1,594 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. On Sunday, Trubisky registered his third consecutive game with 300 or more yards passing. In those last three contests, Howard has rushed for a combined 133 yards. Consider that Kareem Hunt was the NFL's leading rusher in 2017 with Nagy serving as Chiefs offensive coordinator.

Trubisky led the Bears with 81 rushing yards on six carries Sunday, but Nagy pointed out those numbers were the byproduct of passing plays breaking down. 

Cohen has been a much more efficient rusher for the Bears, carrying the football 38 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. His 4.8 yards per carry average is ideal, but Nagy has said previously that he's worried about over-utilizing the 5-foot-6 Cohen.

For now, Nagy and the Bears are forced to be honest in assessing a running game that's lacking.

"We’re at a point right now where we need to figure out what that is," Nagy said. "You can’t have earmuffs and blinders on. You got to be real with it and understand that we got to be better in the run game. When you’re not good in the run game and you become one-dimensional, you’re in trouble."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​​