The Chicago Bears running back situation is far from settled, where presumed starter Jeremy Langford looks over his shoulder heading into training camp.
It was only a few months ago when it seemed like Jeremy Langford would be the unquestioned starter of the Chicago Bears. However, the summer has completely changed the outlook of the Bears’ backfield. While Langford holds the starting spot heading into training camp, here is why he won’t hold onto the starting job for long.
With the 106th in the 2015 draft, the Bears selected Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State. It was clear Langford wasn’t just picked for depth purposes, he was picked to one day lead the Bears’ backfield after a productive collegiate career. Langford appeared to be in the right place at the right time when Matt Forte went down with injury in week 8. Langford would start the next game which was a prime time game against the Chargers. Langford logged 142 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in a Bears win.
Langford would one-up his performance the very next week against the St Louis Rams where he had 182 yards from scrimmage and scored twice. Langford’s ability to stretch defenses in both the rushing and passing attack gave the Bears enough confidence to let Forte walk and free agency, and by extension, make Langford the starting back. However, things would begin to go downhill for Langford as free agency began and the draft ensued.
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The Bears’ backfield situation seemed to be under control until reports surfaced that Chicago had offered CJ Anderson a 4 year, $19 million deal. The offer showed the Bears clearly weren’t comfortable with Langford being the feature back, and weren’t afraid to show it by being the highest bidder on Anderson despite coming up empty. Langford did appear to dodge a bullet with no more viable free agents being available after the Anderson sweepstakes. However, the draft would yield Langford’s fiercest competition and who will ultimately be his eventual successor.
In the 5th round of the NFL Draft, the Bears got an unquestioned steal in Jordan Howard. To give that some added perspective, NFL.com had the UAB and Indiana product going in the 2nd or 3rd round. One of the only explanations for Howard falling so far would be so minor injuries combined with his physical running style. That being said, the Bears quite possible snagged one of the best backs of the draft in the 5th round.
So what makes Howard such a lock to take Langford’s place? Quite a few things actually. First of all, Howard weighs an 22 pounds more than Langford despite both backs being listed at 6 foot even. That added weight makes a big difference on the short yardage plays in which Langford struggled. Howard’s weight compliments his downhill style which includes a lot of contact. Better yet, Howard’s style aligns perfectly with John Fox’s philosophy of ground and pound.
John Fox has historically leaned with a more physical back. In 2007 when Fox was in Carolina, DeAnglo Williams averaged over 5 yards per carry, but Fox decided to draft a more bruising back in the 2008 draft with Jonathan Stewart. Williams was still heavily used, but it was clear the Fox wanted his back to be wearing down the defense throughout the game with his physicality, not pure speed.
A similar occurrence happened when Fox went to Denver. He favored the physical style of Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, and CJ Anderson over Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and Montee Ball. The same will likely occur with Howard’s arrival in Chicago. However, even if Langford does lose the starting job, he will still play a major role in the Bears’ backfield.
John Fox is a major believer in running by committee. When Fox was in Denver, his starter, Knowshon Moreno, only received 57.9% of the carries while Montee Ball had 28.8% of the touches, and Ronnie Hillman taking 13.2% of the carries in 2012 (CJ Anderson had 7 carries which accounts for the other.1%).
It wouldn’t be a major stretch of the imagination to see a similar split this season with the Bears between Howard Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. Howard would usually take the touches on 1st and 2nd down with Langford being an excellent 3rd down back due to his ability to run draws and screens effectively. Langford would also be able to spell Howard on some series with Carey providing a change of pace.
Langford’s days in the Bear’s backfield are far from numbered, but his days as the feature back certainly are. Credit Langford for what he achieved last season, but Jordan Howard can run Fox’s ideal ground and pound offense more efficiently than Langford.