The Chicago Bears are currently implementing and developing a pure zone-blocking run system under offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. The club used zone sets under former coordinator Adam Gase but not to the extent of Loggains, who has used zone-blocking almost exclusively throughout training camp and the preseason.
Most Bears runs are stretch plays in which the running back will scan the field and make one cut before turning up-field. Successful backs in zone systems are often decisive runners with great burst.
Enter Jeremy Langford, the club's second-year runner currently atop the depth chart. The Bears have a number of different options at running back yet based on what we've seen from Langford the past month, it's clear his skill set is best suited for Loggains' one-cut system.
With that in mind, let's break down film from the last two preseason contests to highlight Langford in Chicago's zone-heavy rushing attack.
This is a stretch run left for Langford (blue). Up front, C Cornelius Edison cannot cut off LB Derrick Johnson, who scrapes hard play-side, just inside of LT Charles Leno, who is late to recover.
Johnson has a free shot at Langford six yards deep in the backfield. Notice Langford's right arm, which is coiled tight to his body.
Langford extends his arm and drives Johnson into the ground, breaking what would have been a tackle for loss.
Johnson (yellow) can only watch as Langford breaks toward the sideline. In front, Edison finds a defender and explodes into him, taking him off his feet.
Edison's block puts the defender on his face, which allows Langford to turn the corner and pick up the first down.
As Langford takes the handoff on a stretch run right, the defensive tackle has penetrated the interior gap. RG Ted Larsen does the right thing by using the DT's momentum against him and riding him behind the play.
Langford plants his back foot and fires up the up the field.
Langford's burst leaves five Chiefs defenders in his wake.
Langford is tripped up from behind after a nine-yard gain.
As Langford receives the handoff, notice the wall the offensive line has created up front. This has opened a massive cut-back lane.
Langford plants his back foot and fires up the field.
Langford cuts behind the O-line wall and has open space as he hits the line of scrimmage.
He's taken down after a solid six-yard gain.
This is a stretch run left against the Patriots. Up front, the offensive line has done a good job of getting a hat on every single front-seven defender.
Langford sees the hole, plants his back foot and hits it.
Langford uses his elite burst to leave the entire front seven in his wake. He now sees the safety and is setting him up for extra yards. Notice the block by WR Alshon Jeffery, who still has the cornerback locked up out wide.
Langford uses a stutter step and then cuts toward the sideline, leaving S Devin McCourty in his wake. Jeffery still has the corner locked down, which allows Langford to turn the corner.
Langford turns up the sideline and nearly outraces the defense to the end zone. He's taken down at the 5-yard line.
On the next snap, Langford takes the handoff out of shotgun formation. Notice the offensive line once again building a wall up front.
Langford sees the cut-back lane and plants his back foot.
Langford's burst doesn't allow the defense to close on him and he fires into the end zone for the touchdown.
Our final snap will look at Langford in pass protection against a dual ILB blitz from the Chiefs.
Langford steps into the pocket and delivers a shot to the first blitzer, which is his job in any blitz-pick-up situation. Notice Langford's body positioning, which has forward lean and is coiled at the hips.
Langford delivers a shot to the initial blitzer, nearly knocking him off his feet. Unfortunately for the Bears, LG Cody Whitehair did not recognize the blitz and the trailing blitzer now has a clear path at QB Jay Cutler.
Cutler is sacked here but notice Langford, who reengages the linebacker and finishes the block.
Langford has been, by far, the sharpest runner in Loggains' zone-heavy system. He has shown great field vision and decisiveness in his cuts, which is an absolute necessity in a one-cut scheme. He's also shown outstanding burst out of his cuts, which allows him to fit through tight creases before defenders can collapse.
Langford has shown confidence and leadership stepping into the big shoes of Matt Forte, a Bears legend. That has shown itself not only in the run game but also in his improvement on passing downs. He's looked competent in pass protection during the preseason and has caught both passes thrown his way.
Langford has shown competency on all three downs, which should give Loggains the confidence to leave him on the field for long stretches. That's an ideal scenario, as Langford has elite speed and breakaway ability, something no other back on the roster possesses. He provides the highest upside, so the more reps he sees on game day the more explosive Chicago's offense can be.
He still has plenty of room for improvement but, based on the development he's demonstrated the past few months, it's clear Langford is on path to becoming an effective all-around starting running back in the NFL, one who could thrive in Chicago's new zone-rushing attack.