After Matt Forte spent the last eight seasons as the offense's heartbeat, coach John Fox seeks to keep it pumping with a committee approach. Replacing Forte's production, dependability and steadying presence is one of the team's greatest challenges entering Fox's second season.
"Maybe not one can do all that Matt brought to the table," running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "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?"
Probably. But Fox at least has a feel for managing a committee of backs, having deployed it as coach of the Panthers and Broncos. He knows what he's looking for as the competition progresses through spring practices, the preseason and into the regular season. Typically, he settles on two backs after analyzing a variety of factors.
"Who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are," Fox said. "Then situationally, it can be…whoever has a hot hand."
While the uncertainty involving Jeremy Langford centers more on how he'll perform than whether he'll be in the rotation, the rest of the time share offers more questions than answers.
Jordan Howard's bruising style appealed to the Bears as a complement to Langford's speed. He'll have to prove his durability over a full NFL season, but the Bears like his chances to do so as part of a committee.
Related players: KaDeem Carey
The Bears fed the ball to Langford in the three games that Forte missed last year (21.3 touches per game), but Fox has always favored a committee approach at the position. The team tried to sign C.J. Anderson, so clearly they weren't sold on Langford as their workhorse back. He should lead the team in RB touches, but he'll share the workload with Howard and/or KaDeem Carey.