By Chris Emma–
Editor’s note: This is the second entry in a series of positional previews leading up to the start of Bears training camp. Find the rest of them here.READ MORE: Two Chicago Police Officers Shot Near Gas Station In West Suburban Lyons
(CBS) Come Week 1 of the season in Houston, the Bears will break the huddle without Matt Forte in the backfield.
Oh, won’t it be weird without the familiar No. 22 alongside quarterback Jay Cutler?
The Bears continued their new direction this offseason — getting younger, primarily — without Forte, who was allowed to walk into free agency at the age of 30. Forte landed a deal with the New York Jets and will play his first professional season away from Chicago.
Now in his second season in charge, general manager Ryan Pace placed his belief in the Bears’ young running backs, specifically his fourth-round pick from a year ago, Jeremy Langford.
Forte brought the Bears stability during many seasons in which there was uncertainty around him. Now, there are question marks in the backfield as the Bears pursue this new direction.
Starter: Jeremy Langford
Last season saw the sudden debut of Langford, with Forte suffering an MCL sprain that kept him out for four weeks. After being eased into carries, Langford was suddenly getting double-digit touches per game.
Langford finished his rookie season with 537 yards on 148 carries (3.7 yards per carry), going for six touchdowns on the ground. He also hauled in 22 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cool Changes
The Bears can only ask for consistency from Langford in Year 2, because that’s something they got each game from Forte. These Bears will be relying on health, specifically at receiver, but also relying on Langford to produce.
Forte could’ve been back for another few seasons, but the Bears were confident enough in giving Langford his shot.
The stable: Ka’Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jordan Howard, Senorise Perry
Given that Langford is no certainty, there’s great importance as to how the Bears’ depth plays out.
The Bears believe they have something to work with in Carey, who emerged as a short-yardage threat after former coach Marc Trestman failed to utilize him properly. Carey was the man whom Adam Gase counted on to get those tough yards, and new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains should be looking to do the same.
Rodgers could be the No. 2 to Langford. He’s a steady veteran who can provide that consistency needed in the backfield. However, with Rodgers coming off a knee injury last season, the Bears are left hoping he’s the same player.
Drafted in the fifth round this spring, Howard enters the mix looking for a role. A standout at UAB and Indiana, he stands at 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds and embraces the challenge of getting those tough yards. If Howard is impressive enough in camp, he could make Carey expendable.
Then there’s Perry, who’s entering his fourth season in Chicago with only 16 games of experience under his belt. Perry’s best shot to make the roster is through special teams.
The Bears are likely to fill their depth chart with Langford at the top, Rodgers as that versatile complement and either Howard or Carey taking on short-yardage situations. It’s projected they will carry three
backs into the regular season.