Position Battle: Langford vs Howard
Langford is the favorite to start the season as the Bears primary running back after the Bears decided to let Forte sign with the Jets. While Langford did show some signs of being an impressive running back, I hate to say it but there were far more troubling statistics¹.
The most obvious one is Langford’s paltry 3.6 yards per carry which was the 4th worst among all backs who had at least 100 carries. Langford also forced only seven missed tackles which was by far the worst among backs with 100+ carries. According to Pro Football Focus’ elusiveness rating, Langford was again dead last among 51 qualified running backs. Despite being a former wide receiver in college, he also dropped a number of easily catchable passes
The instability of the Bears offense line certainly had something to do with Langford’s poor numbers, but his inability to make players miss in the open field or break tackles after contact is on Langford alone. He averaged only 1.8 yards yards after contact which was again the worst among the 100 running backs with the most carries last season.
While Langford had a couple of big plays in the passing game, he only had two runs of longer than 15 yards all season which was again the worst rate in the NFL. All of Forte’s numbers were considerably better than Langford’s but disturbingly most of Ka’Deem Carey’s numbers were better than Langford’s as well.
So is Carey in the mix for Langfor’ds starting position? I don’t think so. I think the biggest threat to Langford’s job is rookie Jordan Howard.
Howard was rated as the 25th best player in the draft according to NFL.com, projected as a 2nd round pick by CBS Sports, and a 2nd-3rd round pick by WalterFootball. Basically every draft publication had Howard in the top 50 players overall and for the Bears to draft him at #150 is an absolute steal.
There are a couple of theories as to why Howard fell so far. One being that his tendency to seek out contact will make it difficult for him to stay healthy in the NFL and the other was that he didn’t interview well for teams. That’s it. There were no medical red flag, off-field incidents, failed drug tests, or bad measurables. Howard dominated at UAB, then when that program was disbanded, he dominated in the B1G for one season at Indiana.
I’ve already grabbed Howard in both early season drafts I’ve been a part of and got him way late in both of them. I think he’s the best running back on the Bears right now. It may take him some time to learn the Bears offense and earn snaps in the Bears scheme, but once he does Howard has a skill-set that none of the other backs on the Bears roster can match.
In his first season in the rugged B1G conference Howard average 6.2 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns. Howard uses elite vision to find the right hole, minimizes his steps, and finds the most efficient and effective hole to burst through. Once on the second level, Howard is hard to stop as linebackers and defensive backs have their hands full bringing down the sizable Howard in the open field. He’s not just a power back as he’s shown soft hands out of the backfield and the ability to pass block as well as any back in the draft.
So what do the Bears do at the running back position this year? They tired to sign C.J. Anderson this off-season, and Howard was the closest thing to Anderson in this year’s draft. HC John Fox prefers a running game predicated on power with a speedy back-up. .
It may take half a season or so for Howard to understand the nuances of the offense, but I think by the 2nd half of this season Howard is the the Bears primary back with Langford as the Bears speedy complement.
Perhaps Langford gets stronger in year two and becomes a more complete back, or maybe Ka’Deem Carey surprises everyone and wins the job, but on paper Jordan Howard is the best fit for the Bears starting running back gig and it’s just a matter of time before he earns it.
Next: RB Roster Battle