Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford ready to take lead role

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Jeremy Langford wasn’t sure if it would happen or not, but when the Chicago Bears running back found out Matt Forte was released, he understood what that might mean.

More work for the second year back out of Michigan State -- and a large role to fill.

“I definitely got big shoes to fill coming into Chicago when the tradition there of them having a good running back for multiple years,” Langford said while watching the Spartans’ Pro Day on Wednesday. “Big shoes to fill but at the same time I think I learned a lot from Matt before he left and my coaching staff right now.

“And [running backs coach] Stan Drayton is going to do a great job like he did last year.”

Langford said he picked up on Forte’s work ethic and “professionalism” early on from when he arrived in Chicago as a fourth round draft pick in 2015. He spent his rookie year behind Forte and learned from him. He watched how he prepared and how he had to work to be successful.

The Bears have a history of strong backs, including Walter Payton and Forte. Langford is hoping he’s next in line after a rookie season where he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and gained 537 yards with six touchdowns. He received double-digit carries in nine of 16 games last season and improved as the season went along.

Even while he backed up Forte, he would sometimes prepare as if he were going to get the start. And in games where he had a larger role, he showed the potential for the future.

It’s why he thinks hitting 1,000 yards in his second season -- and potentially his first year as a lead running back -- is a realistic option.

It would be a pretty big deal for Langford if he could pull it off. Only seven running backs rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2015 and only three others had more than 900 yards.

“I think it is realistic,” Langford said. “I was kind of close last year and only played, truly, six, eight games. I think it’s definitely realistic, especially with the offensive line we have.”

If he did, it would be an extension of what Forte did in Chicago. Before 2015, when he rushed for 898 yards, Forte ran for more than 900 yards in every season of his career and topped 1,000 yards in five of eight NFL seasons.