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Duke Johnson of Interest to Bears

The Bears brought in running backs for a look Monday according to a Chicago Tribune report, as they continue to deal with backfield and return injuries.

Bears injury misfortune in the return game and at running back persists and now they're looking at possible alternatives

Newly acquired return man Jakeem Grant suffered an ankle injury during Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He returned from the injury to finish the game, but coach Matt Nagy called it an act of bravery.

"I do think when you see the way that Grant gutted it out, I give him a lot of credit," Nagy said. "That was a tough little shot there he took on the sideline, the way his ankle went. So I appreciate that with him."

As a result it's not surprising the Bears brought in some players for a look, according to a report by Brad Biggs of the Tribune. The most prominent among these is former Cleveland an Houston running back Duke Johnson. The others are former Tampa and Arizona running back T.J. Logan, former Washington and Jacksonville back Chris Thompson and undrafted rookie C.J. Marable, who was cut by the Bears after preseason.

While a few of these players have return potential, it's also obvious from the focus on the running back position that the Bears are trying to be proactive in case the knee injury to David Montgomery and/or Damien Williams' stay on the reserve/COVID-19 list run longer than expected.

The Bears have given no indication Montgomery's injury will keep him sidelined beyond the minimum three weeks required for a stay on injured reserve. However, indicated otherwise. 

Johnson is more known as a receiving back after making 307 receptions in a six-year career. He hasn't played this year after being cut in February by the Texans. He had been traded by the Browns to Houston fopr a third-round pick.

Johnson probably offers no return game potential although earlier in his career he did return 17 punts. This was in 2016 and he averaged 6.6 yards a return.

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For 459 rushing attempts, Johnson averaged 4.2 yards per carry. His receiving ability has never been in question as his worse catch percentage is 71%. He caught 80% in 2020 with Houston (28 of 35) and averages 76.8% for his career, .Johnson would no doubt cost a good chunk of the $3.5 million the Bears reportedly saved by restructuring Robert Quinn's contract last week.

Logan returned 13 punts and 13 kicks for the Buccaneers in 2019, averaging 9.5 yards on punts and 20.8 yards on kicks. He has had just five rushing attempts and nine receptions in a 22-game career.

Thompson is 30 years old and another back who has extensive receiving experience. He had 35 receptions or more from 2015 through 2019 and 232 total in an eight-year career. He also ran for 1,214 yards on 257 attempts, averaging 4.7 yards per run. 

Marable ran twice for the Bears for 6 yards and caught a 7-yard pass in preseason.

Having an extra receiving back until the injury problems subside could be a help because third running back Khalil Herbert is not as experienced or adept at catching passes as he is at running the ball.

If the Bears determine they need mostly return help, they also have Nsimba Webster on the practice squad. Reserve running back Artavis Pierce returned a kick on Sunday after Grant's injury.

All of this also communicates a message about the possibility of running back Tarik Cohen returning from the physically unable to play list, where he has been since training camp due to a torn ACL suffered last year.

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