A year ago, Jeremy Langford was the starting running back after the fourth-round pick had a promising rookie season in 2015.
On Sunday, he was waived to make room for an undrafted rookie who was cut by the Ravens.
That’s a precipitous fall from grace, but it wasn’t unexpected.
Langford became expendable primarily because the Bears found someone better. Jordan Howard rushed for 1,313 yards and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season. Then, fifth-round pick Tarik Cohen had a great preseason, proving to be more than just a niche running back. Plus, Langford had limited special-teams value.
Injuries were the final factor. After struggling with a high ankle sprain last season — the injury that opened the door for Howard — Langford missed much of training camp this season with another ankle injury and rushed for 29 yards on 10 carries in two games.
So it was no surprise that the Bears believed they found a better
option when they claimed Taquan Mizzell, a 5-10, 195-pound running back from Virginia who led the
Ravens in rushing (40 carries, 126 yards, 3.2 average, zero touchdowns) and receiving (12 receptions, 90 yards, 7.5 average, one touchdown) in the preseason.
Mizzell was one of three players the Bears picked up on waivers. They also claimed wide receiver/kick returner Tre McBride from the Titans and long snapper Andrew DePaola from the Buccaneers. They waived second-year tight end Ben Braunecker and long snapper Jeff Overbaugh to make room.
With the Bears likely to lean on their tight ends and running backs in the passing game to compensate for a particularly nondescript group of wide receivers, Mizzell’s production as a receiver likely intrigued them. He caught 195 passes for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns at Virginia, the most receptions for a running back in ACC history. He caught at least one pass in 45 consecutive games, all but his first college game in 2013. He was a bit of a surprise cut by the Ravens, who likely had hoped to sign him to their practice squad.
The 6-0, 210-pound McBride was a seventh-round draft pick by the Titans in 2015. He played in nine games in two seasons and had two catches for eight yards, including a one-yard touchdown in a blowout loss to the Texans in 2015.
DePaola was the Buccaneers’ long snapper for the last three seasons — including 2015 with current Bears kicker Connor Barth — but suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 17 last season. He returned to the Bucs on Aug. 22 but was cut Saturday.
The Bears began forming their 10-man practice squad, signing eight players: receiver Tanner Gentry, defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson, outside linebacker Isaiah Irving, inside linebackers Jonathan Anderson and John Timu, nose tackle Rashaad Coward, guard Brandon Greene and tackle Dieugot Joseph. Guard/tackle Cameron Lee, an Illinois State alum, is expected to sign with the team as soon as Monday, and the Bears could pursue Braunecker to round out the practice squad.
Follow me on Twitter@MarkPotash.