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Bears boast quality depth in backfield

Posted Jul 14, 2016

The Bears will head to Bourbonnais in two weeks with a group of talented young running backs, led by 2015 fourth-round draft pick Jeremy Langford.

The following is the second of eight position previews in advance of training camp.

OTHER POSITION PREVIEWS: Quarterbacks

The Bears will head to Bourbonnais in two weeks with a group of talented young running backs, led by 2015 fourth-round draft pick Jeremy Langford.

Last year as a rookie the former Michigan State standout rushed for 537 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns on 148 carries and caught 22 passes for 279 yards and one TD.

The Bears' faith in Langford and 2014 fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey was a major factor in the team's decision not to offer a contract to veteran Matt Forte.

Langford said in April that he hopes to take over as the Bears' No. 1 back, saying: "I feel ready. I learned a lot last year from Matt. I think it's going to help going into [this] season. I'm ready. I've just got to continue to learn and get better."

When Forte was sidelined with a knee injury last November, Langford helped the Bears win back-to-back games by generating 142 yards from scrimmage (72 rushing, 70 receiving) against the Chargers and 182 yards (73 rushing, 109 receiving) versus the Rams.

Carey, meanwhile, has appeared in 24 games with one start in two seasons with the Bears, rushing for 317 yards and two touchdowns on 79 carries and catching eight passes for 76 yards and one TD.

The Bears further bolstered their running back position in this year's draft by selecting Indiana's Jordan Howard in the fifth round.

Described by general manager Ryan Pace as a "downhill, physical north-south runner," Howard appears to be a perfect fit for a team that makes no secret of its desire to pound opponents on the ground.

Last season at Indiana, Howard rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns on 196 carries despite missing four games with ankle and knee injuries.

Howard played his first two collegiate seasons at Alabama-Birmingham in 2013-14 before transferring to Indiana after UAB disbanded its football program.

The Birmingham native made an immediate impact at Indiana, becoming the first FBS player in the last 20 years to rush for at least 140 yards in each of his first four games with a program, compiling 145, 159, 203 and 168 yards.

In back-to-back games late in the season, Howard rushed for 174 yards against Iowa and 238 yards versus Michigan, the second most ever by a Wolverines opponent.

Bears coach John Fox believes in a backfield-by-committee approach—a strategy he employed successfully in previous stints with the Panthers and Broncos. Fox's teams have featured two rushers with at least 434 yards each of the last 11 seasons.

"The biggest part is just kind of settling on two guys typically in the rotation, who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then situationally or it can be even just as far as whoever has got a hot hand as far as in the game or the course of a game," Fox said in May.

"I think it's hard to get through a season with just one back from a health standpoint when you've got 11 guys chasing him around trying to whack him."

The backfield will benefit from the return of Jacquizz Rodgers, a sixth-year pro who missed the final 11 games last year in his first season with the Bears with a broken arm. In five games, the 5-6, 196-pounder rushed for 41 yards on 14 carries, caught one pass for 10 yards and recorded three special-teams tackles.

Senorise Perry is also back after missing all of last season with a foot injury. The 6-foot, 207-pounder joined the Bears in 2014 as an undrafted free agent from Louisville and appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, leading the team with 17 special-teams tackles and averaging 22 yards on four kickoff returns.