Jeremy Langford knows that he has big shoes to fill, but the 2015 fourth-round pick is undaunted by the challenge of replacing Matt Forte as the Bears' No. 1 running back.
"I feel ready," Langford said. "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."
The Bears' faith in Langford and 2014 fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey played a major role in their decision not to offer a contract to Forte, who has since signed with the New York Jets.
As Forte's backup last season, Langford rushed for 537 yards and a team-high six touchdowns on 148 carries and caught 22 passes for 279 yards and one TD.
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.
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.
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"I was pleased with my rookie year," Langford said. "Being as competitive as I am, I think there are a lot of things I could have done better. This year I want to try to be an every-down back and really have no reason to come off the field unless I'm tired."
Langford was a workhorse in his final two seasons at Michigan State, rushing for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns on 292 carries as a junior in 2013 and 1,522 yards and 22 TDs on 276 attempts as a senior in 2014. But his path to becoming one of college football's top running backs was a bumpy one.
After redshirting as a freshman, Langford was switched from running back to cornerback before the 2011 season and responded by recording a sack and scoring his first collegiate touchdown on a 37-yard fumble return.
Moved to receiver during spring practice a year later, Langford finally returned to running back before the 2012 season. But he received few opportunities while backing up current Steelers star Le'Veon Bell, rushing for 23 yards on just nine carries.
Langford eventually earned the starting job for the first time in 2013 and exceeded all expectations. Three years later, the Bears are hoping that he makes a similar jump.
Earlier this offseason, ESPN's Matt Bowen selected Langford as one of five NFL players who will make big strides in their second pro seasons.
"At 6-feet, 208 pounds, Langford has some downhill power," wrote Bowen, a former safety who played seven NFL seasons from 2000-06. "He hits the hole with a burst, and he has the game-breaking ability to make plays with his 4.42 speed once he gets into the open field. Plus, he runs hard. The young man is tough.
"Even with [offensive coordinator] Adam Gase leaving for Miami, I expect the Bears to have some carryover in the offensive game plan, with more run-pass options (packaged plays) and shotgun runs. That's where we will see Langford's ability to find daylight and push the ball through the hole with zone blocking up front."