Langford gets his opportunity for Chicago Bears

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hands off the ball to running back Jeremy Langford during the Bears' 23-20 loss Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hands off the ball to running back Jeremy Langford during the Bears' 23-20 loss Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/3/2015 8:22 PM

Without Matt Forte, the Chicago Bears lose one of the most consistently productive, versatile and durable running backs in the NFL.

But they may gain something else with rookie Jeremy Langford replacing Forte in the lineup.

 

Bears coach John Fox has said only that Forte won't need surgery on his injured right knee and that he won't be lost for the season.

In "coachspeak" that means Forte will not be available for Monday night's game in San Diego against the 2-6 Chargers, so Langford would be the Bears' featured back.

Before this year, Forte averaged 1,106 rushing yards in the seven seasons since he was drafted in the second round out of Tulane, and he was on pace for 1,250 yards before his injury.

He also has averaged 63 receptions per year, including 102 last year, an NFL record for running backs. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Forte has missed just five games in his career -- only one in the previous three years.

"Matt's a leader," Bears linebacker Sam Acho said. "He's a guy you hear about when you play in the NFL -- you hear about this guy, this character. I played with a guy like that in (eight-time Pro Bowl pick) Larry Fitzgerald when I was in Arizona.

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"As I've gotten a chance to know (Forte) better, his leadership has really stood out. He's a man of character. He's a man of faith, and he's just a passionate man, passionate football player."

What they gain with the 6-foot, 208-pound Langford in the lineup is a better big-play threat. The fourth-round pick from Michigan State has excellent speed and a noticeably better burst than Forte.

"Matt is obviously one of the most exceptional backs we have in the league, year in and year out," offensive tackle Kyle Long said. "He has a unique skill set, and he has a running style that is Matt Forte's running style.

"Langford can run very hard downhill with surprising burst that you see on film. Once he gets through the line, he can just shoot out there. I think you'll see a guy who's running downhill, and I think Bears fans will like it. I know I like the guy a lot. He runs hard, and he's a tough kid."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Langford ran a 4.42 at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and he has been clocked as low as 4.30.

After Forte was hurt early in the third quarter at the end of a 17-yard reception Sunday, Langford got his most extensive playing time of the season: 12 carries for 46 yards (3.8-yard average).

"Jeremy Langford isn't a guy who doesn't have a track record of running the ball well," Long said. "He's a guy who's had a lot of success collegiately, and I don't see why it shouldn't be able to translate to the NFL level -- especially if we stick to our game plan."

In his last two years at Michigan State, Langford rushed for 2,944 yards on 568 carries, a 5.2-yard average, and he scored 40 touchdowns.

"We were just looking at that (Vikings) film," Long said Tuesday. "I know you guys are sick of hearing this, but we are very close on a lot of these plays to having home run plays (and) being able to stack those explosive runs together, which would be very good for our offense."

Langford wasn't used much as a receiver at Michigan State. He had 39 career catches for a modest 5.6-yard average, and he has 2 receptions this season for 31 yards.

But he dropped a potential first-down catch on the Bears' final possession in Sunday's loss.

"I just want to do what I can to help the team and make enough plays," Langford said when asked about filling in for Forte. "I feel like I have to do a better job of catching that ball and pass-blocking better."

Langford could find room to run in San Diego. The Chargers, who placed Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen on inured reserve Tuesday, have been gashed on the ground this season.

They're allowing an average of 124.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the league, two spots ahead of the Bears.

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

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