After the Chicago Bears decided to cut ties with running back Matt Forte, there was no doubt in every Bears fans’ mind that Jeremy Langford would be anointed as the team’s feature back heading into the 2016 season. This assumption makes a lot of sense, considering how Langford stepped in when Forte was sidelined for three games with a knee injury. However, some moves that were made this offseason might have changed some minds.
Not too long after Forte left for the Big Apple, it was reported that the Bears showed great interest in Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, offering him a $19 million deal. When that plan fell through, general manager Ryan Pace then decided to add some more depth to the backfield via the 2016 NFL Draft by selecting Jordan Howard in the fifth round. Along with Ka’Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Senorise Perry on the depth chart, the Bears’ running game could improve from last year.
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Chicago finished 11th in the NFL in rushing in 2015 with an average of 115.9 yards per game. Looking at the history of how head coach John Fox likes to run the ball with multiple backs (and has done so successfully) shows that the Bears could have a potent running game to complement the big weapons that they have at wide receiver in the passing game.
While coaching for the Carolina Panthers, Fox’s backfield tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart was a lethal two-headed monster, spearheading a rushing attack that was third in the league in rushing in 2008 and 2009, averaging 152.3 and 156.1 yards per game respectively. In 2008, Williams and Stewart combined for 2,351 yards on the ground and 28 rushing touchdowns. The following season, both backs rushed for over 1,000 yards each.
Langford may have the goods to be the primary ball carrier, but his average of 3.6 yards per carry could be more of a reason for the Bears to implement the running back-by-committee strategy. Chicago already has Carey as a suitable backup to Langford, and Rodgers has a reliable third-down back as a receiver out of the backfield and a pass protector. However, Howard’s battering-ram style of running could be the best complement to Langford’s game. Howard did have trouble with injuries in 2015 while at Indiana University, and splitting the load with Langford could give him his best chance at actually getting through the entire season.
And let’s not forget the key additions along the offensive line. Veterans Ted Larsen, Manny Ramirez, and Bobby Massie bring much experience, and moving Pro Bowler Kyle Long back to his best-suited position of right guard only makes the O-line that much better. Regardless of who will be behind Langford at the No. 2 RB, Fox could potentially be looking at having yet another potent running attack under his control.