John Fox breaking Chicago Bears' mold with backfield committee

By The Sports Xchange
Chicago Bears head coach John Fox paces up the sidelines during the second quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on November 15, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Chicago Bears head coach John Fox paces up the sidelines during the second quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on November 15, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The foreign concept of running back by committee has begun to take root with the Chicago Bears, much like the 3-4 defense needed time to grow last year.

A franchise deeply seeded in a single dominant back philosophy actually started converting last year to coach John Fox's belief of wearing opponents down with fresh ballcarriers. With Matt Forte on the roster that would never entirely occur.


Now, without Forte, there is no alternative.

"We have good backs here," running back Ka'Deem Carey said. "Whoever has that hot hand is going to have that hot hand."

Forte had a spectacular Chicago career, second in overall production only to Walter Payton, but his style and the way he was used throughout his career ran contrary to Fox's idea of a rushing attack. Fox would rather have two or more backs physically punishing defenses in the one-cut style that flows with a zone-blocking scheme.


Fox used this with Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and later with Mike Goodson in Carolina. Williams and Stewart in 2009 were within five carries of each other. In Denver, it was Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman, then C.J. Anderson, Hillman and Montee Ball.

Forte had a spectacular Bears career, but did so with a breakaway style that sometimes took longer to develop with this blocking scheme.

"I think most of it is track and vision," Fox said. "A lot of the zone schemes, which are very popular all throughout the league, it's track and vision and when to make the cut - not a dancing kind of run play.

"It's kind of a one-cut play and guys that have the good vision are pretty productive."

Carey, projected starter Jeremy Langford and rookie Jordan Howard all look the part of the one-cut back in practices. Langford immediately caught Fox's eye as a one-cut style runner last year.

"I saw him last year as a rookie and thought he was a very productive player for us," Fox said. "Obviously he's way more comfortable now in what we're doing, and more comfortable in the speed and strength of our league. He's not afraid to work and that's what we're here in camp for, to see what he can do."


While Langford has the starting role, nothing is conceded.

"The competition in our room is real good right now," Langford said. "Nothing is given and I wouldn't want it any other way. You've got to go earn everything you get."

The first padded practices gave Howard a chance to get physical and he took or delivered two of the best shots to date in camp.

Langford has breakaway speed and Carey had always been thought of as a slashing type. However, Carey has developed more power and greater ability to punish than when he came into the league in 2014 out of Arizona at 207 pounds.

"I'm at 220 - I feel good," Carey said. "And coach has many backs to rotate in. So it's keeping us all fresh. At any time we can bust one."

Blockers like tackle Kyle Long appreciates Carey's style.

"Sometimes you can hear the tackle and you know it was Ka'Deem because he tries to kill people when he has the ball," Long said.

Carey laughed about that exaggerated description, but the concept holds true.

"That's how you've got to do it at running back," he said. "It's like playing linebacker. You've got to be real physical.


"I take a lot of pride in that. I felt like over time in a game, the defense wears down off that. They don't always want to come down and deliver that blow on you. So I think it takes a beating on a defensive player. Then you get me after a while, me after a while; then Jeremy goes in there and puts a move on that safety because he thinks he wants to deliver the big hit, and (Langford) goes for 60. It's big and I like it."

The backs speak about time spent learning under Forte with reverence.

"It's been good, because I feel like Matt taught us all a lot so we can still learn from what he taught us, and at the same time creating our own coaching," Langford said.

They view the future as a chance to establish the new backfield concept.

"This is my opportunity to shine and it's an opportunity for this whole backfield to showcase their talent," Langford said. "I'm looking forward to it, it's a great opportunity."

NOTES: Right guard Kyle Long missed all but one practice and is day to day with a calf injury heading into Wednesday's second week of practices. ... Linebacker Pernell McPhee remains on the preseason PUP list while conditioning after offseason knee surgery. He hasn't been on the sidelines and is working extensively in a swimming pool at strengthening his leg. It has meant more snaps for Willie Young in the base defense. ... Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, a rookie, went out (shoulder) on the weekend and is missing practices. He has been replaced on the second-team linebacker corps by Jonathan Anderson. Kwiatkoski is day-to-day. ... Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris has not practiced due to heat-related illness. He is day-to-day. ... Tight end Khari Lee (shoulder) returned to practice after missing two practices. However, Lee has been practicing on a limited basis. ... Nose tackle Terry Williams (shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis. ... Linebacker Leonard Floyd (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis after an injury suffered when he returned from an illness. ... Cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle) is practicing on a limited basis.


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