After eight years as the centerpiece of their offense, the Chicago Bears have parted ways with Matt Forte. And with their former star now calling New York home, the Bears will look to replace him via running back by committee.
When the Chicago Bears open Organized Team Activities (OTAs) next week, the absence of running back Matt Forte will be noticeable. But even without old reliable in the backfield, head coach John Fox and his staff feel comfortable with what they’ve got.
Similar to what he had done with both the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, Fox plans to utilize a running back by committee in 2016, which will feature Jeremy Langford, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ka’Deem Carey and 2016 fifth-round pick Jordan Howard.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton, who is in his first season with the team, feels confident the group can replace the all-around versatility Forte had offered them over the previous eight seasons.
“Maybe not one can do all that Matt brought to the table,” Drayton told the Chicago Tribune. “But they all bring a strength that can probably add up to what he brought. To say you’re going to replace Matt Forte — it’s going to take years, right?”
Langford, who currently sits atop the depth chart, showed promise in his rookie season, but isn’t as well-polished as the team would prefer. He averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last year, which ranked fourth-worst among running backs with 100 carries or more. He also averaged only 2.7 ypc against base defenses per Pro Football Focus, which was the worst in the NFL.
Third-year pro Carey has been primarily used as the team’s power back, gaining 159 yards on 43 carries (3.7 yards per carry) a season ago. He also had two touchdowns and 13 first downs.
Meanwhile, Rodgers continues to flirt with greater potential as he enters his sixth season, but saw only limited action a season ago, having been placed on season-ending injured reserve in October due to a broken arm. He adds value as a receiver out of the backfield with 156 receptions for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns in his career.
The 6’3″, 230-pound Howard is, perhaps, the Bears’ most interesting back entering OTAs. He is well-suited for a running back by committee, bringing value as a power runner who can force missed tackles and move the sticks. He may not be much of an option as a receiver, but he’ll do some damage and wear out defenders late in the game.
“To sit there and say we’ve got a superstar, I’m not ready to say that,” Drayton added. “But I’ve got a group of conscientious young men who really want to do the best they can for this organization. I can’t ask for anything more.”
As the Bears open OTAs and move toward training camp, the committee at running back will be worth keeping your eyes on. How the roles shake out and the snap counts are divvied will shape the approach for the regular season.