Rookie Jeremy Langford starts to shine in Bears’ backfield

SHARE Rookie Jeremy Langford starts to shine in Bears’ backfield
SHARE Rookie Jeremy Langford starts to shine in Bears’ backfield

INDIANAPOLIS – Rookie running back Jeremy Langford thought he had it. With a cutback and a nifty move on a closing safety, he felt the end zone. He saw daylight.

And then Langford started to stumble over his own feet.

“I did get a hard time [from my teammates], but it’s something I’ve got to get better at,” Langford said. “I thought I had a touchdown. I should have scored. When I see it on film, I’ll think the same thing.”

Instead of a 63-yard touchdown run against the Colts, Langford was dragged down for a 46-yard gain. But on that play, he showed just about everything that general manager Ryan Pace values about him: vision, burst and breakaway speed.

For a team that plans to commit to the run under coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, it was a welcome sight. Langford looks poised to become the first running back to truly spell starter Matt Forte since 2012.

“Good effort,” coach John Fox said of Langford’s nine carries for 80 yards against the Colts. “He’s a fast guy — a good guy, obviously, we thought enough of to draft. He has good vision and he’s getting used to the pro game, but I like where he is right now.”

The Bears won’t be enacting a true two-back system. Forte still remains the unrivaled starter. But Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers will be worked in.

The Denver Broncos’ use of Montee Ball in 2013 could be a template for Langford’s activity this season. Ball, like Langford, was a rookie that season, and he received 120 carries over 16 games behind starter Knowshon Moreno, who had 241.

Ball’s carries that season were more than any reserve running back has had behind Forte since he joined the Bears in 2008. Marion Barber and Michael Bush each had 114 rushing attempts in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

The Bears’ commitment to the run has been evident over the first two exhibition games. They’ve run the ball 69 times for 331 yards. Last year, the Bears had 171 rushing yards in their first two preseason games.

“It felt good to be successful,” said Langford, who also scored on a two-yard, change-of-direction run in the third quarter. “I felt the offensive line did a great job blocking up front, and we did a nice job making plays.”

Langford said he’s grown comfortable with the Bears’ diverse running game, including the zone blocking. Cutbacks will be a staple of the Bears’ attack, and Langford considers such runs a strength for him.

Forte may be in a contract year, but he can’t help but be impressed by the fourth-round pick out of Michigan State.

Langford, who played on all four special-team units against the Colts, has flashed more than Ka’Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick last year.

“He’s grown very well,” Forte said of Langford. “He had a nice run, was really patient and set up the safety real well [on the 46-yard run]. He was able to break the tackle and get a long run.

“He’s come along nicely. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, establish that run and help the quarterbacks.”

It will be interesting to see how Gase’s game plans work with Langford behind Forte. Langford was a workhorse for the Spartans, totaling 568 carries, 2,944 yards and 40 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

But, as coaches always say, it’s a good problem to have.

“He’s versatile,” Forte said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s got the speed and agility to make guys miss. He’s what you need as a running back.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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