As we get to know the 2014 Chicago Bears there are general impressions and then there are facts.
Here is a fact. Through two preseason games, the Bears have run the ball from scrimmage 58 times for 171 yards, an average of 2.9 yards per carry.
Here is another fact. If you eliminate a 16-yard scramble from Jimmy Clausen, and a 15-yard run by Ka’Deem Carey during which the Jaguars' defense opened a lane wide enough for Carey to drag Halas Hall through the hole alongside him, the truer picture of the run game to date is 56 runs for 140 yards for a 2.5 yard per carry average.
One more fact, if these games were real the Bears would have a big problem.
Now here’s my general impression. As both head coach Marc Trestman and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer have told us several times in the past 10 days or so, the running game always takes a little longer than the rest of the offense to come around and it’s way too early to circle the wagons.
Matt Forte has seven carries to date for (-7) yards. Forte is going to be fine and, if he stays healthy, we can count on another 1,250 rushing yards minimum and another Pro Bowl trip.
The Bears' offensive line played without Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and Eben Britton against the Eagles and without Mills and Britton again against the Jaguars.
Marc Trestman talked the day after the Jaguars game about why ground games can struggle in the preseason.
“I don’t think it's structure. It’s not, not having the players to get it done. It can be a 6-inch step some time, or a hand placement some time, or one guy not doing his job. That’s all it takes in the running game to give a defensive player a gap to make a play.”
True enough, but here’s another general impression. While I think we all agree the Bears are lucky to have Forte, we all also now how difficult it is for a running back to stay healthy for 16 games.
It is not too early to be concerned over how little progress the Bears have made finding Forte’s backup.
In a rare moment of candor for any NFL head coach, Trestman did acknowledge that while Shaun Draughn, Michael Ford, Ka’Deem Carey, Senorise Perry and Jordan Lynch are all competing for that spot, he’s already boiled his options down to just two of them.
Draughn is the only back in camp besides Forte with actual NFL rushing experience.
“Obviously, he’s involved in this competition, right now, as I said, I think him and Ka’Deem are in a competition for who will be the second guy or the next guy to go in, at least early on in the season, if we go that way," Trestman said. "I think both guys show that they’re up to it. We’ve got two more games to go.”
For my last general impression, I have to tell you I think the Bears have been trying to give the job to Carey since the moment they drafted him.
How else do you explain his 23 carries in two games compared to 25 carries for Draughn (4), Perry (9), Ford (5) and Lynch (7) combined?
“You go into it and say, you want to get a guy, six carries or seven carries, and then what happens, universally, is the game starts becoming the most important thing as you get into the third and fourth quarter," Trestman said. "You’re trying to call plays that you think can help you win the game, and you lose track of the individual points of emphasis to see certain players.”
I’m sure that’s true to a point, but here’s my final fact. Carey’s 23 carries for 59 yards, an average of 2.6 yards per carry against nothing but second-, third- and fourth-stringers isn’t good enough.
And when you take out that 15-yard free sprint, 22 carries for 44 yards, an average of 2.0 yards per carry is downright disconcerting.
• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.