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On the field furthest from reporters at Halas Hall, with the trees and the Metra train in the background, the Bears conducted a majority of their team activities.
During one of the several 11-on-11 periods during the second OTA practice, Khari Blasingame made a reception in the flat and turned upfield along the right sideline. Since Blasingame, the only fullback on the roster, was signed, he has shown fluidity in his route running while still looking like a physical presence at 6-foot, 200 pounds.
“What he brings to the team is toughness,” Bears running backs coach David Walker said. “You don’t have to have pads on to just watch and feel him in terms of toughness. That’s from a physical and a mental standpoint. Like I said, he’s going to be able to do some things for us outside of the traditional fullback role of just being an elite blocker. He’s got some skills. He made a great catch out of the scramble drill today and went downfield. He’s good at the underneath slides. He’s a fullback by trade, but I wouldn’t consider him an old-school fullback role where he’s only going to be a lead blocker. He can handle the ball and do some things.”
When the Bears signed Blasingame in late March, it was fair to question if he would even make the roster. Fullbacks are not the hot commodity right now in the NFL. But it appears Blasingame is going to be a part of Luke Getsy’s offense along with the emphasis to run the football effectively.
Walker, who is in his first year with the Bears, has worked with fullbacks in his previous two stops in the NFL. When he was in Detroit as the running backs coach from 2016-18, he had fullbacks Michael Burton and Nick Bellore. In his first year in Indianapolis in 2011, Walker had Ryan Mahaffey.
So, even though having a fullback on the roster for the Bears may be a new thing, it isn’t for Walker. Also, the eight-year coach gets to work with a fullback that has helped lead block for one of the best running backs in the NFL in Derrick Henry.
In Blasingame’s first season in the league with Tennessee, Henry led the NFL in rushing yards (1,540) and touchdowns (16). In 2020, Henry improved both of those marks when he ran for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The hope is that Blasingame could help clear running lanes like he used to in Tennessee for running back David Montgomery. The former third-round pick from Iowa State finished with 225 carriers, 849 yards and seven rushing touchdowns behind an inconsistent offensive line.
“They’re (the Bears) getting a very smart player,” Blasingame told ChicagoBears.com back in March. “They’re getting a very physical player, and just a player who loves football, a player that’s going to do the best that he can to help the team win.”
One of the ways that will help the Bears win games in 2022 will be to have a running game to complement second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko highlighted how a successful running game can help the quarterback.
“I mean whether it’s a zone, whether it’s a gap, whatever running scheme we do, if you have success running the football, that opens up windows everywhere,” Janocko said. “ It forces the defense to play a certain way and then you can exploit off that.”
Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian also alluded in his press conference that the quarterback “can lean on the wide zone, the zone scheme, the play pass lets young players, be it quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, play quickly.”
With a running backs room that consists of Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Darrynton Evans, Trestan Ebner, De’montre Tuggle and Blasingame, it’s no surprise the team wants to emphasize the running game to become a key part of the offense.
“Our run game has to complement our pass, and vice versa,” Walker said. “Justin will be a much better quarterback if we can be productive running the football. I think everybody understands that and knows that. So we’re trying to put a premium on both really, and the offense is set up so it kind of marries one another. The things that we’re doing from a run game marry the things we’re going to do from a pass standpoint, the type of people we’ve tried to acquire fit certain roles in this particular offense, so once again Justin’s going to play better if we as an offense can run the ball effectively, that’s going to open up a lot of stuff for him.”
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