Not Set in Stone

While the assumption is that running back Cedric Benson, the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, will win the starting job, incumbent Thomas Jones might make it very interesting.

"Both of them want to play," running backs coach Tim Spencer said. "When Thomas came here last year, he felt that he was going to be the guy, and he's not going to step down, certainly not for any young guy coming in. And then you've got a young guy coming up who wants to prove to everybody that he's capable of being the guy."

Jones rushed for 948 yards last season and led the Bears with 56 receptions. In some ways Benson coming in could help Jones, who has battled durability issues throughout his career. He started a career high 14 games last season, but did miss two contests and had just one carry in another because of sprained toe. So breaking up his carries could lead to more productive touches over the course of the season.

If Benson is a contract holdout, it will give Jones all the first team reps until the issue is resolved. A few days will not make a dramatic impact, but if negotiations stretch into August the competition could turn into Benson just trying to catch up.

While there is room for two backs in Ron Turner's run oriented philosophy, only one can be the starter. Trying to balance two egos will be a challenge the Bears didn't handle well last year. Anthony Thomas started 35 games for the Bears over three years, yet was immediately demoted when Jones signed a four-year $10 million deal as a free agent.

The Bears used the fourth pick in the draft on Benson for him to start, not sit behind Jones as a developmental year. In many ways Jones is in the same position as Thomas was a year ago.

The difference being that Thomas was in the final year of his contract and saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Jones has three years left on his deal and signed with the Bears to start.

Seeing how Benson and Jones handle the competition will be one of the most intriguing storylines in Bourbonnais.


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