BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears works out during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2011 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Forte
If you could get inside Jerry Angelo's head, you might be frightened, but more importantly, you might understand why he likes to collect running backs like your great-aunt likes to collect thimbles.
At the moment, the Bears have nine running backs - Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Marion Barber, Khalil Bell, Harvey Unga, Dan Dierking, Eddie Williams, Robert Hughes, Will Tu'a'ofu.
More than half will likely be culled by the time the roster is cut down to 53, but that's still quite a lot of backs for Jerry, Lovie and the boys to sort through.
Let's take a look at a few of them, and try to figure out Angelo's rationale behind each player's role.
Matt Forte: Last year's offensive MVP briefly considered a hold-out, but now is working with the Bears on an extension that would pay him slightly better than the $550,000 he's making now. Forte had more than 1,600 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns last season, and should be the center of the Bears running game this season. Angelo's rationale to keep him is obvious: hold onto homegrown players.
Chester Taylor: After spending too many seasons in Minnesota stuck behind Adrian Peterson, Taylor signed with the Bears for $7 million and was expected to make a huge contribution on offense. Instead, he was stuck behind Forte and failed to contribute big gains when called upon. At this point, the Bears are already into him for one season, so Angelo's rationale may be he's too expensive to give up on. That, or Angelo really likes the name Chester Taylor because of its many nickname possibilities.
Marion Barber: At one time, Barber was a reliable running option for the Cowboys, but his grinding style has worn him down. He spent four games on the sidelines, and only had five games with 10 or more carries. It's hard to call a player with just six seasons under his belt a has-been, but it's hard to see just where Angelo is headed with giving Barber a two-year, $5 million contract. It's possible that he will be a short-yardage back, but isn't that Taylor's role?
Those are the big three that will battle for carries, but doesn't take into account players like Kahlil Bell, who has made a big impact on special teams in the past, and undrafted free agent rookies like Dan Dierking and Chicago native and Notre Dame product Robert Hughes. It makes sense for the Bears to load up on bodies to get through training camp.
But as for how the Bears, a team who has been unsure on how to handle running backs in the past, will proceed, nobody knows. The last time they had too many backs for their own good, it was Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz was not around. If we use that small part of history as a guide, this running back arrangement will not end well.