Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the Bears will need to act on a strategic decision regarding Matt Forte, whose contract expires after this year, and Jeremy Langford, a rookie who topped 100 total yards in each of his first two NFL games as the Bears’ lead back.
But that decision may not be as simple as either-or, at least not this weekend. In fact, there may be no decision at all required.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has schemed to use both backs together and is expected to have Forte and Langford in certain personnel packages on Sunday against the NFL-leading defense of the Denver Broncos. Already this season, Gase has used combinations of Forte/Langford, Forte/Jacquizz Rodgers, Langford/Ka’Deem Carey and Langford/Antone Smith.
The possibility of Forte, who practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, in a package with Langford puts on the field at the same time the two backs who’ve individually given the team 100 combined yards in six of the nine games this season.
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History says the Bears will have a serious need for both in one iteration or another. Against St. Louis, Langford and Carey accounted for 43 touches (including two incompletions to Langford) out of the Bears’ 63 offensive plays.
“In this league, it’s about the more the merrier,” said coach John Fox. “You try to build competition within your own team. I think it makes everybody on your squad better. We’ll welcome Matt back with open arms.”
Neither Forte nor Langford operates as a fullback; the Bears don’t have one of those on the roster, relying instead on tight ends for that role. But each have shown superb pass-catching skills, and each have been split out as wide receivers.
A question for Gase and the offense will be whether, for example, the second running back is a better pass catcher than a third or fourth wide receiver. Langford or Marc Mariani? Langford or Josh Bellamy? Even Langford or Marquess Wilson?
Forte ranks fourth on the Bears with 25 catches despite missing two-and-a-half games. Langford stands sixth with 12.