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  • By Eric Drennan | FME News Service
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BELTON — There was turf freshly adorned with logos, player introductions with spotlights and the feeling of football in the air.

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If there is one spot on the depth chart Bears fans can feel good about it’s running back.

The naysayers will immediately accuse me of damning with faint praise based on the question marks almost everywhere else on the roster, but they’d be wrong.

Starter Jordan Howard is much more than a 2016 Pro Bowl replacement player. He was second in the NFL last year in rushing with 1,313 yards including three games in which he got only six, nine and seven carries, second in the league averaging 5.2 yards a carry and with last year’s fellow rookie and league rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott set to sit out the first six games of the season, one could argue Howard opens the season as the best in the NFL.

Before spraining his ankle in Week 3 last year, Jeremy Langford was the starter, and then after being Wally Pipped by Howard and having offseason surgery to repair his ankle, Langford missed all of Bourbonnais this summer.

But Langford returned to practice Wednesday in Lake Forest and he’s very impressed with the depth he sees at his position.

“Running back is always a competitive room. It’s very competitive.

“We’ve got some good players in there.”

What does Langford hope to show between now and opening day?

“Just the reason why I’m here, same thing I did in college.

“I’m a playmaker, and be that playmaker and be versatile.”

While Langford has yet to fulfill the promise he showed when the Bears drafted him in the fourth round out of Michigan State two seasons ago, he is capable of starting in the league and having two starters is a real luxury.

Of course Howard was even more than that last year and hopes to take even a bigger leap this year.

“I don’t really feel like it’s daunting, because you want to get better each year – every year you’re playing the game. I feel like once your first year in something – first year in college, first year in the NFL – you can only improve from there.

“I feel like I can only get better. But I also got to put the time in and not change anything, stay humble. I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge. It’s definitely a challenge to surpass those goals. But I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Langford, a receiver at one point in college was drafted to be a factor in the passing game and Howard plans to improve in that area as well.

Then there is this year’s fourth-round pick, Tarik Cohen who has made the biggest splash of any of this year’s newcomers.

It has been clear from Day 1 that the Bears have plans to feature Cohen in the third-down offense, if not more, and he looks up to the task.

“I feel like it’s my will to want to be better and to want to be a good player for my team. I’m not going to let anything stop me, any obstacle,” Cohen said.

How can the little man from the FCS be so confident and relaxed?

“I feel like it came from growing up with my twin brother and younger brother, just being around competition 24-7, just clashing every day.

“So you’ve got to bring your A game every day when you’ve got a twin brother.”

While Howard, Langford and Cohen appear locked at one, two, three the depth chart is still deeper than that.

Ka’Deem Carey appeared to be a dead man walking strolling into training camp but nobody told him. Carey was having a great camp and a really nice game against the Broncos, particularly on special teams before tweaking a leg and free agent Benny Cunningham is making himself difficult to waive as well.

The best thing the Bears could do for Mike Glennon and/or Mitch Trubisky is give them a running game defenses have to stack to stop and it certainly appears that piece of the plan is in place.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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LAKE FOREST – There are two players who – more than any others on the Bears’ roster – hold the key to whether the Bears can take a significant step forward this year.

If they both come through and reach their full potential, the Bears conceivably could take a big step forward this year.

If they don’t, another 3-13 campaign is not off the menu.

I believe the defense has an excellent chance to finish the season ranked somewhere between eighth and 12th in the NFL.

The offense on the other hand is much harder to get our arms around, and we honestly don’t yet know whether the coordinator can coach.

But offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains isn’t a player and neither Mike Glennon nor Mitch Trubisky is one of the players I’m talking about.

It would be great if Glennon took hold of the No. 1 quarterback job and refused to let go, or Trubisky just proved to be so good you can’t keep him off the field, but neither can change the Bears’ fortunes on his own.

The players in question are Kyle Long and Kevin White.

Long has proved he can be one of the best offensive linemen in football when healthy and in the right position.

Will he be healthy, and is left guard the right spot?

Long was clearly frustrated throughout the Bears’ time in Bourbonnais by his slow progress returning from ankle surgery, and that finally boiled over when he started two fights and was thrown out of practice on the final day at Olivet Nazarene University.

When he was nowhere to be seen Wednesday at Halas Hall, alarms started going off everywhere, but coach John Fox explained, “He’s at a doctor’s appointment. It’s his ankle, that’s what he’s been kind of working on.”

Pushed on whether the fights were an issue, his coach assured everyone, “Our guys, we’ve got a bond, and he’s one of our family, and he’ll be treated as such, like any kind of thing that happens in a family. Guys adapt and respond, and I think everything’s fine.”

I don’t doubt Fox, but here’s what is becoming an issue: Long is looking more and more like a long shot to be ready for the opener against the Falcons.

The assumption throughout the offseason has been that Long, Cody Whitehair and Josh Sitton give the Bears one of the best interior lines in football.

But the weak link in the offensive line is left tackle Charles Leno, and if Long is out with No. 3 guard Eric Kush already on injured reserve for the year, suddenly the line becomes very iffy.

Then there is White, who so far in training camp would be easy to miss if everyone wasn’t so focused on him.

Loggains said of White, “He’s missed a lot. The growing experience, he might have got it mentally, but he needs to go out there and experience that and feel what it’s like to go against a press corner.

“We got to figure out, ‘Hey, this is what Kev does well.’ And maybe it’s everything. Maybe, it’s seven or eight routes. Maybe, it’s three or four, but we have to figure what that is.”

Fair enough, but here’s the problem: Cam Meredith proved last year he could be a solid second option when teams were focused on Alshon Jeffery, but he is not a No. 1 receiver.

If White isn’t that guy, then Meredith could be a problem, too.

Victor Cruz appears to have something left in the tank but strictly as a No. 3 in the slot, and no other pass catcher other than undrafted rookie free agent Tanner Gentry has really shown anything. And nobody is scheduling Gentry’s party to celebrate him making the team yet.

If White can be the No. 1, the whole group might be good enough. But if White can’t get it done, the whole receiver unit could render the question of Glennon or Trubisky moot.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

  • By Thomas Huitt-Johnson News-Press Now
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Kansas City Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt made his first public appearance at training camp Tuesday. He expressed a desire to return to St. Joseph as the team's summer training camp winds down this year at Missouri Western.

  • Courtesy: Dallas Cowboys
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Perhaps the Cowboys offense was still trying to recover from the whirlwind trip to the Hall of Fame the weekend before. Or maybe they were in shock from the Ezekiel Elliott suspension that was handed down on Friday.

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Pro Football Weekly Editor and General Manager Hub Arkush is a part of an all-star panel to help you pick your fantasy football team.

Arkush will take part in a fantasy football discussion at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24, at Solider Field as a part of the Chicago Tribune's Fantasy Football Draft Party.

Tickets and more information on the event are available here.

Arkush will be a part of a panel that includes fellow fantasy football experts Slavko Bekovic, Rich Campbell, Jeff Joniak, Scott Krinch, Kevin O'Brien, Phil Thompson and Derek VanRiper.

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CHICAGO – There are few things in the NFL that are more misleading than first preseason games.

That said, in their opener against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, the Chicago Bears' first-team offense was truly awful, and the defensive starters were at best lacking focus.

On his second pass as a Bear on third-and-8 of the opening possession of the game, Mike Glennon forced the ball into triple coverage, resulting in a 50-yard pick six by Broncos Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris.

So much for fresh starts.

Things never got better for Glennon, who finished his Bears debut 2 for 8 passing for 20 yards, a 2.5-yard average, no touchdowns, one interception, a 0.0 passer rating and limping ever so slightly after going down in a heap on his last pass attempt.

It wasn’t much better for Mark Sanchez, who was 1 for 4 passing and only 4 yards gained on 10 plays before Mitch Trubisky was brought in with 1:55 left in the first half for some 2-minute-drill experience.

Of course, as these dramas are always scripted, things went much better for the rookie, but more on that in a moment.

The defensive starters opened with a bang, as sophomore linebacker Leonard Floyd electrified the crowd with a speed rush of his own, flying around Broncos free-agent right tackle Menelik Watson from the left end spot and flattening Trevor Siemian for a 7-yard loss.

Sadly, that was it for the good guys, as the Broncos took off from there on a 10-play, 60-yard drive that featured a pass interference call on Bryce Callahan offset by a Bronco penalty, offsides on Willie Young, an unnecessary roughness call on Young and roughing the passer by Sam Acho.

The Bears' starters resembled a team that, after expressing confidence throughout camp over how improved they were, had forgotten how bad they had been and tried to substitute brashness for good football.

The first seven minutes were embarrassing.

But again, these things happen in first exhibitions, and too much should not be made of it ... yet. How they open in Arizona in nine days will now matter a lot more.

What does count in these scrimmages are players who flash and make plays that argue they should climb the depth chart.

Of note again was rookie running back Tarik Cohen. With starter Jordan Howard getting only one series and Jeremy Langford yet to see the field this preseason, it is clear Cohen hasn’t just made the team, he will dress on Sundays, and some portion of the Bears' offense will go through him.

Ka'Deem Carey also played well at running back and on special teams before he went out with a quad injury.

On defense, Jonathan Bullard appeared to have come a long way during the offseason, and there is no question that Nick Kwiatkoski is a stud against the run.

As for Trubisky, the kid played extremely well, immediately setting off social media chatter over letting him compete for the starting job.

The Bears won’t, and shouldn’t yet, but his early progress is encouraging.

He was a perfect 4 for 4 on that first-half 2-minute drill that culminated in his first NFL TD pass, to Victor Cruz, of course, for the Bears' first score of the night.

Trubisky is an excellent athlete who showed exciting arm talent, completing 12 of his first 13 throws on the night,and he definitely brought a buzz to Soldier Field.

But it was also clear at times he had no idea what he was doing and was reacting rather than quarterbacking, and Bears fans will just have to find a way to remember that patience is most often a virtue.

In the end, both clubs probably set pro football back a decade or two with their sloppiness, and most importantly, the Bears appeared to avoid serious injury to any of their key contributors.

Of major concern now is how Glennon and the first-team offense respond this week in practice and next week in Arizona.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com.