2016 Expectations: Running Backs

Aug 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford (33) runs the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford (33) runs the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Here’s what to expect out of the Chicago Bears young stable of running backs.

Matt Forte is a member of the New York Jets. It’s taken awhile for Chicago Bears fans to get used to that statement. Ryan Pace and the front office decided it was time to go younger at the position and shortly before free agency they informed the veteran running back that he was done in Chicago.

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It wasn’t the most shocking news in the world. The assumption about Forte’s future was trending in that direction for some time, but even so, when the news was official, it was tough to handle for many fans.

But 2016 is a new season, and one where new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will continue the trend Adam Gase started last season- run the football. To do that, the Bears will rely on three players- Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and Jordan Howard- that have a combined total of 227 carries at the NFL level. By comparison, Forte had 218 carries last season alone and he only played in thirteen games.

The key to the running game is going to be the offensive line. Unfortunately, the offensive line is a major question mark. If the line is bad, the entire offense is going to suffer. If the line outperforms expectations, the offense could really surprise some people. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume the offensive line is serviceable and will open up holes most of the time for the running backs.

The starting job is Jeremy Langford’s to lose. Langford filled in well for Forte last season when Forte was hurt. He showed some flashes of ability although his season stats weren’t overly impressive. Langford isn’t going to receive 20 touches a game. The Bears are going to want to use a committee and the hot hand is going to receive the bulk of the carries for that particular game.

One of those hot hands could be Jordan Howard. The rookie out of Indiana proved that he has the potential to be a very good downhill runner with a solid preseason game against the New England Patriots. Howard doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he’s strong and could become a very good workhorse for the Bears. While Langford will see the field in between the 20s, you can expect Howard to see a lot of the goal line and short yardage work.

The Bears will most likely keep four running backs on the roster and the odd man out will most likely be Senorise Perry. Perry is a very good special teams player, but he’s coming off an injury. His special teams talents aren’t as needed as Pace has added other special teams assets as well. Jacquizz Rodgers will see the field as a third down back due to his pass catching abilities and tremendous pass blocking talents.

Ka’Deem Carey doesn’t do anything spectacularly, but he’s a useful back that can fill in for either Langford or Howard if one of them goes down with an injury. Carey will probably be fourth on the depth chart, but will jump Rodgers if one of the top two backs goes down with an injury.

The Bears are going to focus on running the football which means the unit should collectively run for over 2000 yards this season. Langford will most likely lead the group with around 800-900 yards, Howard should tally around 600-700 yards, while Carey should carry for around 400 yards and Rodgers around 100. I would expect the Bears to find the end zone via the ground game around 15 times this year with Langford hitting pay dirt around 5 or 6 times, Howard around 9 or 10 and Carey should score 2-3 times. I would be surprised if Rodgers scores unless he breaks a long TD on a screen pass.

This group won’t be flashy, but they will be productive. They will have enough production to show that letting Forte go was not a mistake. This group of running backs will show the Bears have officially left the Marc Trestman offense in the dust and this is the group that will carry the load for the next 4-5 years.

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.