Here’s hoping that Jeremy Langford can save Bears’ offense

SHARE Here’s hoping that Jeremy Langford can save Bears’ offense

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27: Jeremy Langford #33 of the Chicago Bears takes a handoff from Jay Cutler #6 during a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 657850127

Maybe Jeremy Langford can save the Bears.

That’s a heavy load to lay on the second-year, 6-foot, 215-pound running back from Michigan State.

But, Lord knows, somebody’s got to do it.

If you saw the Bears’ preseason ‘‘dress rehearsal’’ game Saturday against the Chiefs, and you’re done purging your innards at the toilet, you must be thinking of ways this 2016 team can avoid going, say, 5-11 or worse.

You have to score to win. And the Bears’ offense looks like a smoldering car without a universal joint.

Quarterback Jay Cutler, who had his best season last year, suddenly looks sub-average.

Lauded wide receiver Alshon Jeffery abruptly has greasy hands.

Anybody without a concussion gets to play tight end and slot receiver.

(That includes previously concussed starters Zach Miller and Eddie Royal.)

Then there’s the offensive line, which no one on this planet could individually name without a script. If Cutler’s running scared, forgive him. He knoweth what he sees.

Which brings us to running back, the position young Langford has to make his own now that he has been named the starter.

There will be some running by committee, of course, with Ka’Deem Carey and the wonderfully named Jacquizz Rodgers rotating in and out. (A note here about Rodgers: ‘‘Quizz’’ might be the only player in the NFL listed at 5-6 who might not be that tall. When he runs, it’s as if a ferret has been released among highway cones.)

‘‘I’m excited to be a starter, to play running back for the Chicago Bears,’’ Langford said after practice Tuesday. ‘‘But even before I knew who was starting or who was going to be where, I prepared myself in practice like I was a starter and worked hard like I was a backup.’’

Langford ran 148 times for 537 yards and caught 22 passes for 279 more last season. He carried the ball only 15 times in the first six games but began filling in more for workhorse back Matt Forte as the season progressed, starting twice.  He’s not slow, but his long run was 23 yards.

Langford is a cutter and a plower, where Forte was a slasher and a slip-and-slider. Their styles are as different as thumb prints, but the one thing that truly separates them is age.

The departed Forte is 30. Langford is 24. Six years of aging is to an NFL running back as a century is to a tortoise. Grind ’em up, ship ’em out. There’s always a new, undamaged runner coming fresh out of college.

Langford seems aware of his role in this carnival of carnage.

‘‘I’m definitely aware of the history of Bears running backs,’’ he said. ‘‘Playing behind a guy like Matt Forte was really real.

‘‘The Bears run the football, and Chicago loves their running backs. So being able to play here is a blessing.’’

And injuries — of which the Bears have so many — any concern there for his own future?

‘‘It’s football,’’ he said. ‘‘You don’t assume it will happen to you. You just play the game.’’

You also need to catch the football, something Forte was an expert at and Langford was shaky at.  Last season, Langford led all NFL running backs in passes dropped.

But this year?

‘‘I feel good about it, my pass-catching,’’ Langford said. ‘‘Last year, there were a couple I dropped, so this year I’m really working on my hands, catching the ball from all different angles, from crazy angles. I definitely got better.’’

At random times, he was pretty darn good at it in 2015.

Against the Rams, for instance, he caught seven Cutler passes for 103 yards, including a swing pass he turned into an 83-yard score.

One looks around the league at all the changes, at the preseason injuries to key players and wonders: No Tony Romo? No Teddy Bridgewater?  And we’re less than two weeks from opening day.

Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Brandon Marshall are all playing for new teams these days, looking to be stars. Two years ago, they were the Bears’ offensive threats.

How the world spins.

It’s impossible the Bears are as bad as they looked in that Game  3 tune-up against the Chiefs. They must have some weapons they’re hiding, right?

‘‘The mistakes we made are all correctable,’’ Langford said confidently.

You go, young man.

Follow me on Twitter @RickTelander.


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