The Backfield is Still Run by Committee

Dick Jauron has done an excellent job this year taking a team that was expected to be at the bottom of the league and turning them into a playoff contender. However, Jauron could be questioned about his hesitation to make a change.

Last year Brian Urlacher sat on the bench until Barry Minter went down with an injury. The Bears started the season 1-7 with Cade McNown as the starting quarterback. Jauron only made a change when McNown went down with an injury. The team went 4-4 the rest of the year.

This year Shane Matthews was named the starting QB early in training camp because Jim Miller was hurt. Who knows how long Jauron would have stayed with Matthews if he hadn't been hurt against Minnesota.

Jauron continues to be indecisive on the running back situation. Anthony Thomas had a break out game against Cincinnati Sunday, carrying the ball 22 times for 188 yards and a touchdown. James Allen had seven carries for 17 yards and is averaging less than three yards per carry on the season.

With Marcus Robinson out for the remainder of the season the running game is going to be more of a focal point. After the receiver was carted off the field Chicago ran 19 times for 109 yards. Thomas accounted for 18 of those rushes and 108 yards. Allen had one yard on one attempt.

Jauron said Allen and Thomas would continue to rotate series during a game, unless of the back gets a hot hand.

"We try to run the ball by committee. We don't want to be a single-back running team," he said. "I believe James Allen is pretty good. I think you saw what happens when a guy is really running well. He (Thomas) rushed for 185 yards, that's pretty good. That's really good. We like our tandem."

Jauron went as far as to mention the team's third running back.

"Attack people with numbers. When we say numbers we're talking about Anthony and James. Again, I've said a number of times we think Autry is very capable too.

"Those two (Allen and Thomas) will run the ball for us on Sunday. Nothing has really changed in terms of what we said about running the ball that way. The hot guy will get the ball. Anthony got the ball 22 times on Sunday and James got it seven times. So we'll go into the next game anticipating that those numbers will be about like that unless something changes in the course of the game. That's how we wanted to function and that's how it's gone. Now Anthony obviously had an outstanding game. He'll get the ball a lot on Sunday."

Thomas knows the decision on who starts is out of his hands, but his time at Michigan prepared him for the NFL.

"That's something, one thing Lloyd (Carr) told me before I left," Thomas said. "Worry about things you can take care of. Its something that I have no control over so I really can't worry about that. I'm just going to go out and try to play games right now.

Unlike many of the young players in the league Thomas appears humble and was quick to credit his teammates for his record-breaking performance.

"My offensive line did a great job today," he said. "They opened up lanes that probably anybody could run through. Luckily I was back there to take advantage of it."

The "A-Train" has done just that this season. Thomas is averaging over 6.5 yards per carry and that number has increased the more he's played. One reason Jauron hesitates to start Thomas is his blocking ability. The coach had criticized his blocking earlier in the year. Jauron said the rookie hasn't improved on picking up blitzes.

"Quite honestly, no. Maybe a little better, but no. It's an area he needs a lot of work in."

Blocking schemes are often the most difficult part of the professional game for rookies to comprehend. Thomas will not be an every down back until he can become a serviceable blocker. The "A-Train" knows he's not a complete player yet.

"Every time you go out you want to get better. No doubt about that," Thomas said.

In the meantime, if Thomas can run for 6.6 yards per carry Jauron might learn to live with his limited blocking abilities.


Bear Report Top Stories