Chicago Bears: Jeremy Langford Heir Apparent to Matt Forte


Simply put, Matt Forte is one of the greatest running backs to put on a Chicago Bears uniform. Ever since he was selected by the team in the second round (44th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft, Forte had been an absolute star and clear focal point of the Bears’ offense.

In fact, entering the 2015 season, Forte trails only the great Walter Payton in career franchise rushing yards with an impressive 7,704, while also having the fourth most rushing touchdowns in Bears’ history with 41. Forte is also an incredible receiver out of the backfield. His 443 receptions trail only Payton’s 492 as the most for any position in franchise history, a record he is likely to break this season.

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Forte has long been an extremely important part of the Bears’ offense, and I do not expect that to change this season. That being said, his days in Chicago may be numbered.

At 29-years-old, Forte is entering the part of his career where running backs start to breakdown. Sure, he could continue to dominate, but I am not banking on that much longer. Forte has carried a large load in Chicago for some time now, and recent history of running backs entering their 30s is not on his side.

Nov 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) avoids a tackle by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks (27) during the game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

With his best days likely behind him, and his contract up after season, the Bears are best-off letting Forte walk when he becomes a free agent next off season. A major part of the reason I am so willing to take such a strong stand on Forte’s future (or lack thereof) in Chicago is my belief in the talent of rookie running back Jeremy Langford.

The Bears drafted Langford in the fourth round (106th pick overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. Langford joins the Bears after an extremely impressive college career at Michigan State. Langford was a cornerback during his freshman season at Michigan State, before moving to running back prior to his sophomore season.

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Langford was the primary back-up to Le’Veon Bell during his first season at the running back position, before taking over the job full-time during his junior year. He was immediately a success, rushing for 1,422 yards (4.9 yards per carry average) and 18 touchdowns during his first year as the starter, leading the Spartans to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory.

He backed-up his play last season, continuing to be a major workhorse for the Spartans. Langford finished with 1,522 yards in 2014 (5.5 yards per carry average) and 22 touchdowns. Despite only carrying the ball 577 times during his college career, Langford graduated with eighth most rushing yards in Michigan State history. Not one single player ahead of him on the list carried the ball fewer times than Langford.

He showed an impressive balanced rushing style that allowed him to do some serious damage in the Big Ten throughout his college career. Langford is an extremely patient runner with great natural instincts when searching for the open hole to run through. He also showed an impressive combination of speed, quickness and power that should translate well to the next level.

Langford’s skill-set and obvious college production allows me to believe in his ability at the NFL level. He is such a smooth runner who can seemingly do anything on the field. On top of that, Langford ran the fastest 40-yard dash for the running back position at the scouting combine, with an impressive time of 4.42 seconds.

If the Bears move on from Forte after this season, there is only one back on the roster who I could see giving Langford a run for his money. Ka’Deem Carey was the Bears’ fourth round pick in 2014, and while he is an explosive player who dominated at the college level, Carey was unable to get much playing time last season.

Feb 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Jeremy Langford runs with the ball in a drill during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

He is a talented back, but Carey struggled mightily with picking up pass protection responsibilities. The Bears simply cannot have a back out there who cannot pass block. Unless Carey can become a much better pass protector, I do not think he is the future starting running back for the Bears. Obviously, Langford will have to also prove himself in that department, but he showed nice pass protection skills in college.

The Bears brought in a new regime this off season led by general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox. If this new stable of minds believed in Carey as the eventual replacement to Forte, they would not have drafted Langford. For me, that is one of the most important signs. Sure, Carey is a very talented player, but somebody in the organization is clearly skeptical in his ability to be a full-time back.

If both players are still around next season, and the Bears decide to move on from Forte, both Carey and Langford will get a chance to become the full-time back. That being said, with his well-balanced skill-set and the new regime on his side, Langford is going to be the favorite to land the job.

Next: Ten Burning Questions Facing the Bears in 2015

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