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Chicago Bears: A Crowded Backfield Could Mean Game over for Chester Taylor

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Chicago Bears: A Crowded Backfield Could Mean Game over for Chester Taylor
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If there was one unusual thing to take away from Saturday night’s 10-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills, it was that the Chicago Bears ran the ball exceptionally well. Yes, really.

The Bears, who attempted just 18 passes compared to 35 runs, dedicated the offense to the rushing attack for multiple reasons.

The new offensive line needed a whole half together to build chemistry and gel as a unit. Plenty of talk was made this offseason when the Bears decided not to re-sign veteran center Olin Kreutz as part of their offensive line transactions.

The current “starters” for the offensive line included J’Marcus Webb, Chris Williams, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis and rookie Gabe Carimi. After allowing four of the nine total Bills sacks in the first half, this collection of misplaced and mismatched offensive linemen were pulled for the reserves.

It was obvious by running twice as many times as the Bears passed the football Saturday that the game plan was to try and build some film and reps for the starting line. Just getting maximum snaps together will be difficult with most guys changing positions and having never played together before due to the shortened offseason.

Another reason Chicago ran as much as it did was because Matt Forte, who is in the middle of a non-threatening contract dispute with the organization, never ran the ball once. He caught just one ball—a shovel pass from Jay Cutler for no gain—in his time on the field. By keeping Forte off the field and away from injury, the Bears could test the depth chart at halfback.

Highlights - Bills vs. Bears

The first back to replace Forte was former Dallas Cowboy Marion Barber. Barber carried the rock seven times for 45 yards. During most of those rushing attempts, Barber was able to shed defenders on first contact and fought hard for yards after contact.

Barber was brought in to be the short yardage rusher the Bears offense missed last season. Chester Taylor, who was brought in from the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 to be the short yardage back, failed at more than half of his 3rd-and-1 attempts.

If Barber is able to gain those tough yards—especially in the red zone—then Taylor’s touches may be few and far between.

So assuming Barber takes over as the dominant short distant back, what role can Taylor serve for the Bears? Could he be the second string, every down tailback?

Competition with backup Forte looks to be heating up as well—thanks in large part to the performances of Khalil Bell and Harvey Unga.

Bell had 13 rushes for 73 yards and two receptions for 46 yards, including a huge screen pass play Saturday. Bell had some great rushes and ran extremely well down the field.

He told the media following the victory against the Bills, “I’d like to think of myself as a football player, not just a running back.”

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It’s that kind of versatility that could land him a roster spot with Chicago—possibly ousting Taylor.

Bell isn’t just a competitor for the third running back position, but he is also a proven special teamer who could have a chance to return kicks and punts in a reserve role.

So with Forte locked in as the No. 1 back, Barber the power back and Bell as the No. 2 rusher, the Bears roster might not be large enough to carry four halfbacks. A bust from a season ago, Taylor may very well be without a roster spot when training camp breaks at the end of the month.

Competition is always a good thing to have, but the falloff of Taylor makes General Manager Jerry Angelo look a little foolish. When Angelo signed Taylor last spring from free agency, he inked him to a three-year contract worth $12 million.

That signing looks like a bad deal in retrospect, especially if Taylor isn’t guaranteed a spot in the Bears' backfield.

Knowing full well what Taylor received last spring and for the small role he plays on the team, the bar is only set higher for Forte to receive a hefty contract extension. Forte is scheduled to make $550,000 in the final year of his rookie contract and has well out-performed his current deal.

When Forte sits down with Angelo to talk dollars and cents, this Taylor situation may raise his price up just a little bit higher.

 

Follow Brett Lyons on Twitter @BrettLyons670

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