Langford-for-Forte not the real issue for Bears offense


Langford-for-Forte not the real issue for Bears offense

SAN DIEGO – The concern over how Jeremy Langford will pick up the Bears’ running game with Matt Forte down with a knee injury is only natural. Langford is a rookie and his biggest load filling in for Forte has been 12 carries for 46 yards in the loss to Minnesota. Comparisons don’t really mean much, but for perspective’s sake, by this time in his rookie season, Forte had started every game of the 2008 season. Langford was third-string until Jacquizz Rodgers was lost for the season with a fractured arm.

"You know I think he's naturally pretty good and I think the maturity of him is you know he's wiling to learn,” said coach John Fox. “He doesn't think he has it all yet so he's still always trying to become better no matter what part of his game. It's one thing to have talent; it's another thing to develop skills and usually your really good players have the combination of both."

But the real issue isn’t Langford, who stands to be the successor to Forte based on what he produces in Forte’s stead. The bigger issue is the Bears’ running game, with or without Forte.

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Not since week two in the loss to the Arizona Cardinals have the Bears rushed for a combined 100 yards, even with Jay Cutler’s totals from scrambles thrown in. They haven’t averaged four yards per carry since the opener against Green Bay and have slipped to 24th in rushing average.

The commitment has been exactly what coach John Fox and coordinator Adam Gase laid down at the outset of the season. The Bears have not rushed fewer than 25 times (vs. Minnesota) in a game this season in spite of trailing going into the fourth quarter in six of their seven games (winning two).

“We’re always trying to make sure we stay with the run game,” Gase said. “I think that’s my biggest challenge always, is I’ve always been able to just move away from it if it wasn’t working and just start throwing the ball, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. It’s making sure we stick with it, stay in a rhythm, don’t go away from it and make sure that we’re in position in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win the game.”

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The constant flux on the offensive line is the one obvious reason.

“I think with the amount of pieces that we’ve shuffled around, we’re improving in that area, especially from one week to the next,” Gase said. “I know the numbers don’t say it, but there is a lot of things that we’re doing well. We just have to make sure we get more guys doing the right things consistently. We were having one or two guys here and there kind of either bust or not finish, and we just do a better job of finishing.”


Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.