Jordan Howard will head to Bourbonnais in two weeks looking to build on one of the best rookie seasons in Bears history.
Selected by the Bears in the fifth round of last year’ draft out of Indiana, Howard started last season third on the depth chart and concluded it by becoming the first Bears rookie running back to be voted to the Pro Bowl since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965.
The Bears appear to have quality depth behind Howard, with veterans Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey among those expected to battle for backup positions.
Langford missed four games last year with an ankle injury he sustained in a Week 3 loss to the Cowboys and finished the season rushing for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 62 carries. The 2015 fourth-round pick from Michigan State had a more productive rookie year, running for 537 yards and six TDs on 148 attempts.
Carey appeared in 12 games last season, rushing for 126 yards on 32 carries. Chosen by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2014 draft from Arizona, he has compiled 443 yards and two TDs on 111 attempts in 36 games the past three seasons.
The Bears bolstered the running back position during the offseason by signing veteran free-agent Benny Cunningham and selecting Tarik Cohen in the fourth round of the draft out of North Carolina AT.
Cunningham arrives after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Rams. He has appeared in 57 games with three starts, rushing for 748 yards and four touchdowns on 171 carries, catching 93 passes for 752 yards and 1 TD and averaging 27.1 yards on 95 kickoff returns.
Last season Cunningham played in 11 games, rushing for 101 yards on 21 carries and catching 16 passes for 91 yards. The speedy 5-10, 210-pounder also ranked third in the NFL with a 27.2-yard average on 22 kickoff returns.
Cohen is a diminutive and explosive runner who earned the nickname “The Human Joystick” at North Carolina AT, where the 5-6, 179-pounder became the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards. A four-time all-conference selection who was voted the MEAC offensive player of the year as a junior in 2015, he rushed for 1,148, 1,340, 1,543 and 1,588 yards in his four seasons.
Cohen set all-time school records with 6,564 all-purpose yards and 61 touchdowns—with 56 coming on runs, three on receptions and two on passes. He also averaged 6.5 yards per carry, caught 98 passes for 945 yards and competed on the school’s track team as a sprinter.
Also on the Bears roster at running back is undrafted rookie Joel Bouagnon, who rushed for 2,911 yards and 31 touchdowns on 600 carries in four seasons at Northern Illinois.
The Bears will enter training camp with two fullbacks. Veteran Michael Burton is an old-school lead blocker who played in 31 games with seven starts the past two seasons with the Lions after being selected by Detroit in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Rutgers.
Freddie Stevenson is an undrafted rookie who blocked for Florida State’s all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, in college and also ran for 132 yards and five touchdowns on 25 career carries.