Chicago Bears' backup back battle bears watching

  • Bears running back Ka'Deem Carey, picking up some yardage last season against the Falcons, finished with just 36 carries as Matt Forte's backup.

    Bears running back Ka'Deem Carey, picking up some yardage last season against the Falcons, finished with just 36 carries as Matt Forte's backup. Associated Press

Updated 8/2/2015 9:02 PM

BOURBONNAIS -- If there's one common thread that runs through the Bears' 2015 training camp, it's the wide-open competition at multiple positions.

One of the most interesting is the battle for the backup running back position behind workhorse Matt Forte. That has been a thankless position over the years as Forte has proved to be so versatile and durable that his backups become answers to trivia questions.


But this year the main event for whatever scraps Forte leaves on the table should come down to the Bears' previous two fourth-round picks: Jeremy Langford who was drafted this year, and Ka'Deem Carey, who was taken in 2014.

Both were tremendously productive as featured backs in college.

The 6-foot, 208-pound Langford rushed 568 times for 2,944 yards (5.1-yard average) and 40 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Michigan State. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Carey carried the ball 652 times for 3,814 yards (5.9-yard average) and scored 42 rushing touchdowns in his last two seasons at Arizona.

Carey was Forte's top backup last season, when he got just 36 carries but averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per attempt and also caught 5 passes for 57 yards (11.4-yard average).

It wasn't the type of workload Carey grew accustomed to with the Wildcats, but he gets it.

"I remember in college, I never wanted to leave the field," he said. "I was THE back, and then a young guy going in trying to get some reps, I was just like, 'No, man, I'm better off doing it.'

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"So I definitely came in understanding that part. You just always have to stay ready. That's what I put in my head, 'Know the plays, and when they call your name, go out there and perform.' "

As a rookie in 2014, Carey's position on the final roster was all but guaranteed by his draft status. But his situation is more tenuous this year. He wasn't drafted (117th overall) by new general manager Ryan Pace, but Langford was (106th overall).

The Bears also added 5-6, 199-pound veteran change-of-pace free agent Jacquizz Rodgers in the off-season. Also, second-year man Senorise Perry is back after leading the 2014 Bears in special teams-tackles, an important quality for backups at many positions.

"You could say it's more competition this year," Carey said. "It just shows how the league works. Every day you have to go out there and perform.


"It kind of just lights you up. It makes you want to play harder, makes you want to fight for what you want. It makes all of us better as a running back group, so we're all just out there grinding, working for that second spot."

Langford has almost the exact same mindset. He had the opportunity to work out with Forte in the off-season, and he's planning to prove that he can contribute on special teams as well as offense.

"I'll do my best to learn and start on special teams," Langford said. "I'll be playing on four special teams and finding my niche somewhere on the team and just work hard and bring a blue-collar mindset."

A significant role in the offense might have to wait, but Langford realizes the reality of the situation.

"It's the same as when I came in my freshman year in college," he said. "Football is about competition, so just come in and compete, find your niche and be a hard worker and fight for everything you want."

Coach John Fox likes what he has seen so far from the group, but for running backs production in preseason games will be paramount.

"They run with authority from what I've seen," Fox said. "They know their assignments, both the run and the pass, which is half the battle in this league. We'll get a chance to evaluate them moving forward. With runners, you get a real feel for (them) when it's live game conditions."

If this year is like most, the top contenders will get a long look, starting with the preseason opener Aug. 13 against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.

The Bears don't need to see anything from Forte; he had just 10 carries last preseason. The backups split 75 attempts, including 27 by Carey and 17 by Perry.

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.


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