Chicago Bears Training Camp Battles: Running Backs


When Matt Forte announced that the Chicago Bears had informed him that they would not offer him a new contract, most people thought that the Bears 2016 running game had come into focus. The Bears would give Jeremy Langford the opportunity to be the feature back, Ka’Deem Carey would also get carries as the RB2, and the Bears would probably add a depth piece at the position.

But when free agency hit, the Bears made a surprising offer to Denver Broncos RB CJ Anderson. Most people know that John Fox likes having a stable of running backs to utilize but the offer to Anderson meant one thing for certain- the Bears weren’t sold on Langford as a feature back. Langford filled in admirably as a rookie last season when Forte went down with an injury and made some big plays along the way, but his yards per carry average for the season finished at 3.6, which isn’t exactly electric.

You have to wonder if the Bears started thinking they had a very nice RB2 on their hands with Langford. He can break big plays with his speed, he can be utilized out of the backfield in the passing game and could be a tremendous change of pace back. But the Bears may not see him as a workhorse.

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When the Bears drafted Jordan Howard it became very likely that the Bears see Langford exactly that way. Howard is a bruising back that likes contact, runs in between the tackles and had the legs to handle the brunt of the workload.

If Howard impresses out of camp, not only can he jump Ka’Deem Carey for the RB2 spot, but he may even jump Langford for the starting position. Fox probably won’t do that to Howard immediately, there is a good chance Langford will be the starter early in the season with Howard seeing carries in short yardage and goal to go situations, but it is very likely that Howard could be the starting back by midseason.

If Howard and Langford share the top two spots on the roster, that clarifies the running game some, but it still leaves questions, most notably what to do with Carey. Carey proved to be a capable back towards the end of the season but doesn’t have Langford’s speed or Howard’s power. He is certainly the third best running back on the roster but does that guarantee him a spot?

Keep in mind that Carey will go into training camp this year starting behind the 8-ball. He was a draft choice of the previous regime, and Ryan Pace and Fox have made it very clear that there will not be many Phil Emery/Jerry Angello personnel that factor into the Bears long term plans. While Carey’s overall skill might make him better than Jacquizz Rodgers or Senorise Perry, it’s Rodgers and Perry’s unique skills that puts Carey’s roster spot in trouble.

Rodgers is a significantly better pass catcher than Carey and his pass blocking skills are arguably the best in the NFL. Perry holds very little value as a running back but has a lot of value as a special teams contributor, leading the Bears in special teams’ tackles in 2014. It’s conceivable that the Bears decide to cut Carey lose and keep Rodgers and Perry for their unique skill sets.

But is that really a smart plan? Based on last year, we know Fox likes to have four backs on his roster, and it would make little sense to keep five. If the Bears keep both Rodgers and Perry, the Bears leave themselves with only two viable backs to run the football.

The Bears have made a lot of upgrades on special teams in the last 8 months. From Omar Bolden to Chris Prosinski, the Bears have made major efforts to improve their special teams coverage and anyone who watched this team last September, knows that those upgrades were critical. With some rookies that could also make significant impact on special teams, the Bears may make the decision that Senorise Perry is no longer essential. He missed last season with an injury so the Bears have learned to live without him.

The most sensible move to make is to let Perry walk and keep Carey on the roster. Carey will probably be stuck in the RB3/RB4 position but with two young running backs in front of him they need Carey in case one of them can’t handle the rigors of the NFL. More importantly, they need Carey if Langford or Howard go down with an injury. If one of them miss any significant time the Bears simply won’t have the personnel to survive the loss if Rodgers becomes the back that needs 5 to 10 carries a game as an RB2.

It’s a difficult call for Pace to make. While Carey’s doesn’t bring anything unique like the other four backs do, he does many things decently and that may be enough for him to keep a roster spot.

Langford and Howard’s roster spots are safe, but the argument can be made for the Bears to cut ties with any of the other three backs. This will be a very interesting training camp battle this summer and one that all Bears fans should keep an eye on.

Bill Zimmerman is an editor and featured writer for FanSided‘s BearGogglesOn. Like his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter for more news and interaction.