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.
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.”