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.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

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.”


(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 


J.J. Stankevitz 

1. Jordan Howard will have his first 100-yard game of the year.
Hear me out: This happens if Bill Belichick’s strategy is to drop seven or even eight defenders into zone coverage, forcing Mitch Trubisky to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows against a secondary that’s the strength of the Patriots’ defense. Or...Matt Nagy recognizes what’s in front of him and pounds the ball to Howard 15-20 times with plenty of success. Belichick, too, was extremely complimentary of Tarik Cohen on a conference call with Chicago media this week, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Cohen is the guy the future Hall of Fame coach tries to take away. Either way, it’s also worth noting here the Patriots allowed Kerryon Johnson to become the first Detroit Lions running back to have a 100-yard game since 2013 (!) in Week 2. And Howard still has shown flashes this year, like the 34 yards he gained on consecutive carries in overtime against Miami. 


2. Danny Trevathan or Roquan Smith will make a big play when it counts.
Given how good the rookie running back combo of Sony Michel (67 carries, 236 yards) and James White (23 receptions, 198 yards) has been recently, a lot of the Bears’ defensive success will hinge on the inside linebacking play of Trevathan and Smith. Trevathan has had an up-and-down year, playing outstanding ball in Weeks 2 and 4 but having some issues against the likes of David Johnson and Kenyan Drake/Frank Gore. Smith’s athleticism stands out but he’s still growing into Vic Fangio’s defense. Sunday will be a major test for both of them, and if the Bears are to win, it may come down to one of these two guys making a big-time play: A forced fumble, interception, run stuff on third down, etc. For the sake of a bold prediction, I’ll go with Smith making a play at the end of Sunday’s game that stands as the first big moment of the rookie’s pro career. 


Cam Ellis

1. Tarik Cohen's performance will garner the attention of national media 
Last Sunday night, Kansas City's Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged almost 21 yards per catch, thanks in part to a 75-yard touchdown score late in the 4th. The Patriots' defense clearly had no answer for Hill's speed. Now Cohen isn't a carbon copy of Hill, but he plays a similar role in the Bears' offense that Hill plays for the Chiefs. New England's linebackers lack and real speed -- especially on the outside -- which obviously bodes well for Cohen. Belichick is notoriously for creating game plans that take away the other team's best offensive players, but with the personell he has on defense, it's going to be tough to matchup with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, AND Cohen. The guess here is that Robinson and Gabriel have quiet games, but Cohen runs circles around the Pats. 


2. The Bears and Pats are tied heading into the 4th quarter
For a team with aspirations of an NFC North title (and more) this shouldn't be a bold prediction, and yet, it kinda feels like it? After a slow start to the season, the Patriots' offense have scored at least 38 points in each of the last three games. This Bears defense is the best they'll have played yet, so I don't expect them to get anywhere close to 38 today, especially with how the defense played last week in Miami. I think New England comes out of Chicago with a win, but the Bears will play them closer than people are predicting. A Cody Parkey-Stephen Gostkowski battle royale could be in play. 

Rob Gronkowski won't play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski won't play Sunday against the Bears

UPDATE: Gronkowski has been ruled out for today's game: 

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.