The Monsters of the Midway always have been and always will be a running football team, although they did not live up to that reputation this past season by any stretch of the imagination.
The Bears produced only 83.1 yards per game on the ground, 30th in the league and dead last at just 3.1 yards per carry. Cedric Benson waited two long years behind Thomas Jones to finally be given the starting job, but he only produced one 100-yard rushing game and fractured his ankle in Week 12 just about the time he was beginning to show some life. Adrian Peterson was flourishing in a backup role and making great strides as a receiver out of the backfield, although he proved to be no more effective than Benson once he took over atop the depth chart. And while rookie Garrett Wolfe showed some wiggle from time to time and could develop into a capable third-down back, he didn't get many snaps until late in the season and may be too small to handle a significant workload. GM Jerry Angelo promised more competition for carries in 2008, but it remains to be seen from whom said competition will come.
Will Benson be back at 100 percent in time for training camp? Has Peterson proven once and for all that he's simply a special-teams player? Would Wolfe provide some spark if he had more opportunities? Can Chicago native Michael Turner be pried away from San Diego in free agency? Is it time to give up on Benson already and take another ball-carrier on Day 1 of the NFL Draft?
A possible answer to those questions and more may have been revealed in Mobile, Alabama, where preparations for the Senior Bowl continue all this week.
Scout.com is reporting that Bears officials have had several lengthy discussions with Southern California running back Chauncey Washington.
RB Chauncey Washington
Robert LaBerge/Getty Images
Despite his generous size and solid build, Washington is an excellent athlete and has shown some quickness. Even though he's just a 4.6 guy and not very fast in the open field, he hits the hole hard and breaks his share of tackles near the line of scrimmage. He's a good inside runner and displays nifty footwork in the hole, and he's also caught the ball out of the backfield fairly effectively in the Trojans' pro-style offense.Since he has below-average speed, he's never been much of a big-play back and doesn't offer that explosive element the Midway Monsters need so desperately in their running game. He was quite a poor student at USC, as evidenced by the fact that he was ruled academically ineligible several times and did not play at all in 2004 or 2005. His instincts as a football player have been questioned repeatedly, and he doesn't give the effort necessary to be a quality blocker in pass protection. Projected to be just a sixth- or seventh-round prospect should he be drafted at all, Washington may not be a very good fit with the Bears since his style is similar to Benson's – unless, as rumors suggest, they are no longer committed to Benson as the featured back.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.