Monday, April 14, 2014
Bears keep tabs on RB James White
By Jeff Dickerson
The release of veteran running back Michael Bush on March 10 left a hole in the Chicago Bears' backfield the team must eventually fill.
While the Bears do currently have second-year tailback/return man Michael Ford slotted behind two-time Pro Bowler Matt Forte on the depth chart, the team could use more depth and competition at the position.
That help could arrive next month if the Bears select a running back somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds of the upcoming NFL draft, a reasonable target area given the priority in the early rounds will likely be safety, cornerback, defensive tackle and inside linebacker, in no particular order.
One backfield prospect to keep tabs on is former Wisconsin running back James White, who led all rushers with 11 carries for 62 yards and one touchdown at the 2014 Senior Bowl.
The Bears recently traveled to Wisconsin's campus in Madison to put White through a private pre-draft workout, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Although listed at 5-foot-9, 204 pounds, White finished his four-year career at Wisconsin as the Badgers' No. 4 all-time leading rusher with 4,015 yards and ranks No. 3 in school history with 45 rushing touchdowns.
White ran for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 39 passes for 300 yards and two scores for Wisconsin last season. He also returned kickoffs his first two years in Madison.
Keep in mind, the Bears require a versatile running back that is capable of not only picking up yards on the ground if called upon, but also a player that can catch the ball out of the backfield. Utilizing the tailback in the passing game is a key component of Marc Trestman's offense, and one of Forte's greatest strengths since entering the league in 2008.
In addition to White, there should be an ample supply of running backs for the Bears to choose from in the later rounds if the organization decides to fill that need via the draft.
Other names to consider are Alabama State's Isaiah Crowell, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas (the Bears reportedly hosted Thomas on a top-30 pre-draft visit at Halas Hall), Tennessee's Rajion Neal, Stanford's Tyler Gaffney, Louisville's Senorise Perry, Arizona State's Marion Grice and Florida State's James Wilder, Jr., among others.
Grice suffered a lower leg injury last year and had to wait until last week to work out in front of scouts at his personal Pro Bowl. Representatives from 17 NFL teams were in attendance. The Bears were not present, but the 6-foot, 207 pound Grice did catch 91 passes out of the backfield for the Sun Devils over the last two seasons.
The Bears also worked out a handful of veteran free agent running backs last week at Halas Hall.