Langford wants to be Forte's replacement
It would be unrealistic to expect just one running back to do everything Matt Forte did for the Bears for the previous eight seasons.
How do you replace 2,035 carries for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns, plus 487 receptions for 4,116 yards and 19 more scores.
"You can't," said quarterback Jay Cutler, who joined the Bears a year after Forte was drafted in the second round in 2008. "Just his knowledge, and him being here so long, his experience on the field, his experience playing with me. Most of the time I'd tell him something or just look at him and he'd know exactly what I was thinking. You can't replace him; you can't replace him in a year anyway."
Nevertheless, that's exactly what Jeremy Langford wants to do.
"Me personally, I think I can play all three downs," said Langford, who is listed first on the depth chart but is competing with 2014 fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey, veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard for touches. "I want to prove that I'm capable of that, but there's a lot of guys in the room that can do it as well."
Langford did it better than anyone else in Thursday night's second preseason game, picking up 55 yards on 8 carries (6.9-yard average), including a 34-yard burst and a 5-yard TD. He also caught 1 pass for 8 yards. Howard rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries (4.2-yard average) in the fourth quarter, while Rodgers was held to 7 yards on 6 carries and Carey missed the game with a concussion.
Langford earned the top spot on the depth chart as a rookie last year, rushing for 537 yards on 148 attempts as Forte's top backup and catching 22 passes for 279 yards. But last year's 3.6-yard average per carry will not be enough for Langford to keep the No. 1 job going forward. And, although his 12.7-yard average per catch was excellent, he had some egregious drops.
He's well aware there is room for improvement, so that's what Langford spent the off-season and training camp working on, and that continues to be his focus.
"I need to work on catching the ball a little bit better," Langford admitted. "(And) making a safety miss a little better and getting those yard after contact. Getting (more) yards per carry for me, as well."
All those things were evident on Langford's 34-yard run Thursday night.
In John Fox's first season as the Bears' head coach in 2015, he was impressed by Langford's contributions, and he believes the fourth-round pick out of Michigan State has made major strides in his second season.
"Last year as a rookie he was a very productive player for us," Fox said. "Obviously he's way more comfortable now in what we're doing and more comfortable in the speed and strength of our league. He's not afraid to work."
Langford says he's approaching his job just as he did in his rookie season, even though it's a different dynamic with Forte now playing for the Jets.
"Practice hard and study like I'm the No. 1 guy, and my chance came up and it happened," Langford said of his rookie mindset. "(Now) I'm not putting too much pressure or thinking too much about (being the No. 1 guy), just worrying about the competition that we're creating in the room that's making us all that much better."
None of the running backs are guaranteed anything, and the lead dog could change from game to game based on who has the hot hand.
"Instead of just one guy doing all those things (Forte did), we're going to have to incorporate a couple of guys," Cutler said. "We'll put some guys in different positions and try to find the positive things they do and stay with that."
All the candidates understand the situation.
"The competition in our room is real good right now," Langford said. "Nothing is given, and I wouldn't want it any other way. You've got to go earn everything you get."
That's one of the lessons all the Bears running backs learned while playing behind Forte.
"I feel like Matt taught us all a lot," Langford said. "We can still learn from what he taught us, and at the same time, create our own coaching."
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