Is Matt Forte Headed for the Running Back Cliff?

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Can Forte Avoid – or at least delay – a trip over the running back cliff?  He’s got a few things going for him:

Marc Trestman

The Bears finally have an offensive minded coach and you can see how Forte’s rushing yards skyrocketed last season.  Some may have been skeptical if Trestman’s passing attack would hamper Forte’s yardage.  As a matter of fact, it actually helped him.  He had career highs in yardage, touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards under Trestman.

Improved Offensive Line

Oct 6, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22)celebrates his 2-point conversion with offensive guard Kyle Long (75) during the second half against New Orleans at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears spent last offseason overhauling their offensive line and it paid immediate dividends in 2013.  The line has a good mix of youth and experience and will only continue to get better.

Above Average

The trend follows the trend of average running backs, but Forte isn’t average.  Will his numbers continue to skyrocket in future seasons?  While the trend would suggest otherwise, just remember that the average means half are above and half are below.   It’s like the old saying, “think of the intelligence of the average person and then realize that half the people are more stupid than that.”  Forte can still be productive not only in the running game but in the passing game for years to come.

With all of that said, the Bears have to consider getting a younger running back to groom and bring along.  They went the route of the older, less-used running backs to be the “thunder” to Forte’s “lightning” over the last few offseason (see Chester Taylor, Marion Barber and Michael Bush).  It didn’t work out.  Even though those guys had less miles on their odometer, they just couldn’t produce in short yardage or spelling Forte.

Aug 23, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago Bears running back Michael Ford (32) escapes the Oakland Raiders tackles for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Coliseum. The Chicago Bears defeated the Oakland Raiders 34-26. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Besides Forte, the Bears currently only have Michael Ford, an undrafted free agent rookie out of LSU, who showed a spark in the preseason but didn’t get much opportunity in the regular season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears added a late-round running back or another undrafted free agent.  My colleagues have their RB Rankings as well as some suggestions for top running backs the Bears should consider in the draft or even a sleeper pick.

What do you think?  Can Forte buck the trend and continue to raise his game?  If you’re Phil Emery on draft weekend, are you getting a little insurance policy and finding someone to grow into Forte’s role or at least a competent compliment?


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Tags: Chicago Bears Matt Forte Running Back Cliff Running Backs

  • Erik Lambert

    It’s definitely a risk but Matt has always been great about keeping himself in prime physical condition. I think the Bears can lean on him this year, but I also think they should start investing more at the position the next couple drafts.

    • Mike “Boomer” Burzawa

      I think Forte can stall for another year or two and with his added contributions in the passing game, he’ll continue to be valuable. Time to add some young blood.

  • D$

    unless you’re looking at rounds 5 or 6, there are too many holes and too much age on defense to worry about drafting a backup to your pro bowl running back this year.

  • Johnathan Wood

    That article is flawed because it looks at total yardage. I would be much more interested in seeing yards per attempt, which measures how effective the backs are.

    Historically backs drop off at about 2400 touches in the NFL. Forte is at 1800, which says he has 2 years left. Right when his contract is up, conveniently.

    • Mike “Boomer” Burzawa

      I thought the same thing as you when I started researching this. But the main reason that total yardage is important is because guys break down and miss games. If you played Forte or Adrian Peterson half the amount of time, their yards per carry could increase but they’re not worth as much to their teams. Nagging injuries and missed time, thus less total yardage, are the underlying causes of the loss of productivity.

  • Gioscianna

    I hope he stays productive for two more years at least but the decline happens to everybody. Remember how good of shape Tomlinson kept himself in? Granted LT was used more than Forte of course, but Forte did carry the ball over 300 times for three consecutive seasons in college and his first 3-4 years with the Bears I know he averaged over 300 touches a season as well. Here’s hoping we can win it all before he’s done.