Bears Young Players to Watch – Offense

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

RB Jordan Howard – This one is pretty obvious, but of the Bears three young running backs, Howard is the only one that I think has the potential to be a three-down NFL back. In five games since Jeremy Langford’s injury, Howard has three 100+ yard rushing games and gained over 200 yards from scrimmage last week against an elite Vikings defense.

Despite his three impressive games, Howard has lost significant snaps to Ka’Deem Carey in two of the last five games. Whether it’s due to a couple of dropped passes, an ill-timed penalty in the red zone, minor injuries, or missed blocks in pass protection, it appears that HC John Fox isn’t 100% comfortable with Howard as an every-down RB.

Whether or not Howard can build on his impressive week eight performance or goes back to a time share with Carey and the now healthy Langford, will determine what the Bears plans are for the running back position in 2017. I think Howard has a legitimate shot to cement his position as the Bears primary running back of the future, but he will need to prove it in the 2nd half of the season.

C/G Eric Kush – When the Bears signed Kush he was more well known for showing off his tank top collection on Hard Knocks than his play on the field, but proved he could play a little in his first NFL start last week against the Vikings. Kush took over at right guard for Kyle Long and more than held his own. He’s a powerful run blocker and didn’t look overmatched at all against DT Linval Joseph, who is one of the best in the NFL at his position.

With both Kyle Long and Josh Sitton expected back soon, Kush may not have a spot in the lineup next week but he played well enough in his first start to be the first guard off the bench if one of the starters need a break. The Bears starting lineup appears to be set, but we’ve seen the last few years just how important o-line depth is. Kush was a center in college and if he can prove to be competent at guard as well, he could be a valuable, versatile reserve for the Bears in 2017.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

TE Ben Braunecker – “Bronk” got a lot of attention when the Bears signed him as an undrafted free agent after this year’s draft, but a training camp injury has taken Braunecker off the radar. He was activated off the practice squad before the Bears week seven game and had his first NFL catch last week.

After Zach Miller, the Bears really don’t have an established receiving tight end, but Braunecker has that type of potential. I wrote about Braunecker at length in the preseason, but his combine stats were almost identical to Rob Gronkowski’s coming out of college, hence the nickname.

Braunecker has the potential to be the complete package at tight end. He has the size & strength to be an inline blocker with enough speed (4.73) to stretch the defense in the seam. Look for the Bears to get Braunecker on the field more often in the second half of the season and see if he can solidify the TE2 spot for the 2017 season.

TE Daniel Brown – The Bears just signed Brown a couple weeks ago off the Ravens practice squad. At 6’5, but just 225 pounds, Brown is a former undrafted wide receiver from James Madison whom the Ravens converted to tight end in 2015.

Brown has actually seen the field quite a bit for an undrafted player, appearing in eight games over the last season and a half. He has produced as well, with six catches for 64 yards in his rookie season. He’s a receiving-first tight end and could see the field quickly for the Bears as a red zone weapon.

In college Brown was a dangerous red zone threat with 15 touchdowns in his last two collegiate seasons. He runs very well for his size with 40-times as low as 4.50 and 4.52, has long arms (34 1/4″), big hands (9 7/8″), and has shown the ability to make catches in traffic in his limited NFL exposure. Brown has all the tools to be a Zach Miller type receiving TE and should compete with Braunecker for the TE2 role in 2017.