MONSTER’S MASH: Can Lamar Miller earn time in the Bears backfield for the rest of 2020?

Bears Report

Bears running back Lamar Miller takes part in a practice at Halas Hall on November 14th.

LAKE FOREST – For the first time since they drafted him in the spring of 2019, No. 32 won’t be in the Bears’ backfield on Monday night.

After playing in the first 17 games of his NFL career, David Montgomery is on the sidelines with a concussion as they Bears host the Vikings at Soldier Field. It’s a much less than ideal situation for the Bears, who must now look to players who’ve seen little time for production on the ground.

That includes Lamar Miller, but he’s far from a stranger to the league, having played seven years for the Dolphins then Texans before an ACL tear kept him out of 2019. That includes two 1,000 yard rushing seasons and a Pro Bowl selection in 2018, but found himself out of a job after the Patriots released him in September.

After signing with the Bears’ practice squad in October, Miller gets the shot to play in his first game since Houston’s Wild Card playoff loss to the Colts on January 5, 2019. Matt Nagy understands what that will mean to Miller and the opportunity that’s ahead for him on Monday.

A strong performance could earn him some more time in the rotation since the Bears’ rushing attack currently is last in the NFL with 82.3 yards per game.

“When he was playing at his highest level, he was one of the best running backs in the NFL. So to have a guy like that, to me, there’s an excitement of the possibility of him being able to fill a role for us,” said Nagy of Miller on Saturday. “I do love those stories. If he does get the chance to go out there and do something, it will be exciting for him and for us.”

AS PLAY CALLING GOES FROM MATT TO BILL, JIMMY REMEMBERS SEAN

What happens on Monday night won’t be anything different for Miller since he’s yet to play for the Bears in a game. But for everyone else, it will be a tad unusual.

Matt Nagy handed off play calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this week as the offense continues to struggle well into November. It’s the first time the head coach has done that since taking over the team in 2018 and represents the latest move to get something going with the offense.

For Jimmy Graham, the move isn’t something foreign to him during his NFL career, While a member of the New Orleans Saints, the tight end remembered his head coach Sean Payton doing the same thing.

“I remember that, not much changed,” said Graham of that switch. “It enabled him to focus on some of the details; defense, special teams, and everything. and just focus on the overall team.

“We’ve just got to get back to business and put our best foot forward and just keeping grinding, man. We’ve got to just keep believing and make stuff happen.”

FROM HENRY TO COOK

Tashaun Gipson couldn’t have summed up the Bears’ defensive challenge against the Vikings any better than he did during his news conference Saturday.

“Another week, another good running back…great running back,” said the safety, and he’s right.

After facing Derrick Henry’s Titans last week, in comes Dalvin Cook and the Vikings this week, as the defense must once again deal with an elite NFL running back.

Tennessee’s ball carrier is the leading rusher in the league with 946 yards but Minnesota’s is right behind him with 858. Cook is also playing at his best ahead of the match-up against the Bears, rushing for a career-high 206 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Detroit.

A week earlier, he had three scores and 163 yards in a road win over the Packers.

He’ll present a different challenge for the Bears’ defenders since he relies more of his ability to cut than his brawn like Henry does.

“Unlike most backs, his balance is off the charts,” said Gipson of Cook. “He’s a guy like (Alvin) Kamara who isn’t that big but runs bigger than he plays at his listed weight. Hard to tackle, forces a lot of missed tackles.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: 4

The number can be applied two ways this week. First, it represents the number of wins that Matt Nagy has against the Vikings in his coaching tenure without a loss. It’s also the number of times in the last four years that the Bears have hosted Minnesota on prime time, doing so in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The Bears have a 2-1 record in those games.

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