The last time Matt Forte was not locked in as the Bears’ starting running back, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson (the other Adrian Peterson) were sharing that role in 2007. Forte’s departure via free agency shifts the face of Chicago’s offense, leaving some combination of Jeremy Langford, Jordan Howard and Ka’Deem Carey to pick up the slack. Langford finished second to Forte in yards among the team’s backs last season—he posted 817 combined rushing and receiving—but Chicago pursued multiple backs via free agency before landing Howard in the fifth round of the draft. A balanced approach could be the answer, likely with Howard pushing Langford.
Whatever the answer, the Bears must improve upon last season’s 23rd-ranked rushing attack. Forte missed three games en route to the lowest rushing total of his career (898 yards) while both Langford and Carey averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per attempt. A tweaked O-line should help—incoming OT Bobby Massie will kick Kyle Long back to guard, where he has thrived, and rookie Cody Whitehair will challenge for the other guard spot. Adam Gase never could find a reliable run-pass balance in his lone season as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. His replacement, Dowell Loggains, needs to make it happen.
The Rookie: Chicago uncovered a defensive gem in the fifth round of the 2015 draft when it selected safety Adrian Amos. Deon Bush, a Round 4 selection, could join Amos in the starting lineup if he delivers a strong preseason.
Position Battle Spoilers: Mitch Unrein followed John Fox from Denver to Chicago, and he wound up starting a handful of games at defensive end in 2015. Third-rounder Jonathan Bullard should bump Unrein back to a rotational role. The Florida product is a versatile defender with massive upside.
The Stat: 237.8, the average receiving yards Bears wideouts not named Alshon Jeffery contributed last season, a mark lowered substantially by injuries to Kevin White and Eddie Royal. White’s much-anticipated arrival comes as Jeffery plays out the year on the franchise tag. The newcomer may wind up as Chicago’s go-to option soon.
Preseason Watchability Guide: As preseason schedules go, this one is quite juicy. The Bears open by pitting Fox against his old team, defending champ Denver, which will be unpacking its QB situation. And then it’s a visit to Foxborough to take on the New England Fightin’ Garoppolos.