Pace ‘feels really good’ about Bears backs

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During his pre-draft press conference Tuesday, Bears general manager Ryan Pace discussed the March 28 trade of running back Jordan Howard for the first time.

“First of all, we were happy with the way free agency transpired,” said Pace, who signed running back Mike Davis and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been utilized at times as a ballcarrier out of the backfield.

“We like Mike Davis. We like that running back room. For us, we get some value for Jordan and it’s just the way it all transpired. I hope Jordan does well. We feel good about where we’re at and what we have going forward.”

The Bears signed Davis on the first day of free agency March 13. The 26-year-old has appeared in 35 NFL games with nine starts over four seasons with the 49ers (2015-16) and Seahawks (2017-18), rushing for 862 yards and five touchdowns on 234 carries and catching 59 passes for 408 yards and one TD.

Davis blossomed last year with Seattle. Appearing in 15 games with two starts, he established career highs in all categories by rushing for 514 yards and four touchdowns on 112 attempts and catching 34 passes for 214 yards and one TD.

Subbing for injured starter Chris Carson in a Week 4 win over the Cardinals, Davis rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

The Bears offense is not designed for one running back to get 20-25 rushing attempts a game. But Pace is confident that Davis could handle a heavy workload if necessary.

“He’s built to handle a lot of carries,” Pace said. “He’s built kind of short, compact, thick, rugged. We like who we saw on tape. We liked him from the very beginning. Coaches and scouts connected on that acquisition.

“We’re excited to just let it play out. I think we’ve got a good variety of running backs back there to use. Mike Davis brings a unique skillset that fits that room.”

Davis will join third-year pro Tarik Cohen, an electrifying back who possesses the versatility and playmaking ability to line up all over the field.

Last year Cohen rushed for 444 yards and three touchdowns on 99 attempts and caught a team-leading 71 passes for 725 yards and five TDs. He was also named first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl as a punt returner.

The 2017 fourth-round draft pick from North Carolina A&T became only the second player in NFL history to gain at least 500 yards via rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns in his first 25 career games.

Pace on Tuesday also mentioned running back Ryan Nall, who spent his rookie season on the Bears practice squad last year after being signed as an undrafted free agent. The Oregon State product led the Bears in rushing last preseason with 223 yards on 32 carries, with a long of 69 yards.

“We really liked his college tape at Oregon State and on the practice squad we saw things every day; just his versatility, his work ethic, his professionalism,” Pace said. “Coaches and scouts were both excited about Ryan Nall. He’s going to get another offseason now, another preseason to kind of showcase his abilities, and he’s going to have plenty of opportunities.

“He’s a guy last year who we really liked in the draft and we felt fortunate to get him as a college free agent. Now I think he’ll just have a greater platform to show his skillset.”

The Bears dealt Howard to the Eagles in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round pick that could become a fifth-round pick if certain conditions are met. The trade was the culmination of a lengthy process.

“Those things are always talked about,” Pace said. “It’s not just one conversation. Those things are talked about really throughout the year, year-round. Let’s see how free agency unfolds and who’s available and how it falls to us. Again, once we acquired Mike, I think we felt strong about the room. And then we got an offer on Jordan, and we just felt like it was the best thing for us, best thing for him, and we go forward.”

Pace was asked what his message would be to those who feel the Bears did not receive enough in return from the Eagles for Howard.

“When you talk about trades, I think there’s always a narrative out there: ‘Oh, you could get this,’” Pace said. “[But] this is reality, you know what I mean? We work those channels all the time. We're doing them right now. That's the reality of what it is. We feel good about it. We feel good moving forward. Again, we feel really good about that room and we wish Jordan the best.”

While there’s outside speculation that the Bears will select a running back in this week’s draft, Pace insisted that the team has no glaring needs and will choose the best available players.

“I kind of know what the narrative is out there, but we feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said Tuesday. “This press conference feels a little different in that there’s no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That’s a great spot to be in.”

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