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Bears in midst of youth movement

Posted Feb 19, 2016

The Bears started an NFL-high nine rookies in 2015 and will count on several of those players to become regular contributors in 2016.

The Bears started an NFL-high nine rookies in 2015 and will count on several of those players to become regular contributors in 2016.

The team's top five picks in last year's draft could start this coming season in receiver Kevin White, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, center Hroniss Grasu, running back Jeremy Langford and safety Adrian Amos.

Kevin White
Kevin White is expected to be ready to participate in the Bears' offseason program without restrictions.

Four of the five saw significant playing time as rookies. The lone exception was White, who missed the entire season with a stress fracture in his shin. Now healthy, the seventh pick in last year's draft is expected to be ready to participate in the Bears' offseason program without restrictions.

White showed explosiveness and playmaking ability last spring before getting hurt in an OTA workout. When he finally returned to the practice field in early December, quarterback Jay Cutler called it "a breath of fresh air."

"He's got some burst to him," Cutler said at the time. "You can see the talent is definitely there."

The Bears are eager to see a healthy White back on the field in 2016. The 6-3, 217-pounder blossomed at West Virginia in 2014, catching 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. He opened the season with a school-record seven straight 100-yard games and set another West Virginia mark for most receptions in a game with 16 against Texas.

Goldman was projected primarily as a run-stuffing nose tackle entering the draft out of Florida State, but he proved as a rookie that he can rush the passer as well, recording 4.5 sacks.

The 6-4, 336-pounder improved during the second half of the season, registering 10 tackles, three sacks and three tackles-for-loss in a three-game span against the Broncos, 49ers and Redskins.

Grasu also gained valuable experience in 2015, starting eight games at center after the Bears lost veteran Will Montgomery for the season to a broken arm in a Week 4 win over the Raiders.

With the Bears deciding not to offer free-agent-to-be Matt Forte a contract, Langford projects as the team's starting running back in 2016. As a rookie, the Michigan State product rushed for 537 yards and a team-high six touchdowns on 148 carries and caught 22 passes for 279 yards and 1 TD.

When Forte was injured last season, Langford helped lead the Bears to back-to-back wins by generating 142 yards from scrimmage (72 rushing, 70 receiving) against the Chargers and 182 yards (73 rushing, 109 receiving) versus the Rams while scoring three touchdowns.

In the process, he became just the second Bears rookie to compile at least 70 yards rushing and 70 yards receiving in multiple games, joining Hall of Famer Gale Sayers.

Amos was the only Bears rookie to start all 16 games last season. He led the defense with 108 tackles but must produce more impact plays than he did in 2015 when he failed to record an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery.

Other rookies who started at least one game in 2015 who also could compete for roles in 2016 include safety Harold Jones-Quartey, linebackers Jonathan Anderson and John Timu, defensive back Bryce Callahan and tight end Khari Lee.

The Bears signed Anderson, Timu and Callahan as undrafted free agents, claimed Jones-Quartey off waivers from the Cardinals and acquired Lee in a trade with the Texans.