At the end of every season the NFL portions out performance-based pay that typically supplements the pay of lower-paid, usually younger players who get substantial playing time beyond their pay grade. If the first two preseason games are any indication, Jeremy Langford will be getting some overtime pay once this season is done.
The rookie running back flashed with a 46-yard run in the win at Indianapolis, added a two-yard, second-effort touchdown run and finished with 80 rushing yards. Against Miami, Langford caught both of the passes thrown to him besides carrying four times.
All of this on top of being part involved in special teams and covering kicks, the closest the NFL likes to get to rookie hazing.
Backups need to be contributors on special teams, but running backs are about legs, which are red-line’d covering kicks. Langford, however, might have volunteered if he hadn’t already been assigned to kicking units.
“I feel like it really helps,” Langford said. “When you go in there a little stiff, you run down there on special teams, on all four special teams, and eventually you warm up. So I feel like that's helping me, really getting on the field and getting that nervous out of me, so that when I do get the ball it can help me a lot.”
Neal Anderson, then the rookie understudy to Walter Payton, was involved in kick coverage as the Bears’ first-round pick in 1986. The next year, Jim Harbaugh was their No. 1 and he volunteered to cover kickoffs.
(Just once. Harbaugh tore downfield, threw himself into the blocking wedge and made his way to the sideline looking out through his earhole. Enough of that.)
Langford got special-teams work at Michigan State while backing up current Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell. But it’s been more than just Langford’s production that has made a strong, early impression.
“Outstanding,” coach John Fox said. “I think we saw early in camp that (the NFL game) wasn’t too fast for him. He’s very humble, sharp guy, willing to learn, and he has talent.
“Every time they go out there, I tell the team that they’re going to pick the roster. Those performances are big, he’s had two pretty good outings, and hopefully we can improve this week against Cincinnati.”