In the wake of the 2013 free agency, draft and offseason work at minicamps and OTAs, CSNChicago.com examines where the Bears have gone and where they will be going when training camp convenes in late July. One of a series.
Matt Forte had some things to smile about after 2012. In 15 games, he’d reached 1,000 yards for the third time in five NFL seasons and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, although Michael Bush was getting the heavy work in and around the end zone. Bush had five touchdowns in 114 carries; Forte had five in 248.
The problem for the Bears was that Bush ended the final four games on the bench with a severe rib injury. Backs still managed 525 combined yards from scrimmage over the final four games, although the 131-yard average was not a significant bump from the 124 ypg. that Forte himself had averaged in 2011.
The trend has been noteworthy, however. Forte averaged 101 yards per game in 2010, up from 88 in 2009, his first year with Jay Cutler.
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Overshadowed in the landing of Brandon Marshall last offseason was the massive investment the organization made in running backs: $32 million over four years for Forte, $14 over four years for Bush.
It will fall to Cutler to make a similar commitment as well.
Issue No. 1: Football distribution
The organization committed money to running backs but not always the football. Forte finished with the lowest reception total (44) of his career and a key to 2013, beginning in training camp, is to change that.
“We were kind of one-dimensional last year, I would say,” Forte said. “So it’s going to be an emphasis for us this year to spread the ball around so that it works, it’s balanced. The defense can’t just focus on one guy or one position.”
Running backs have traditionally done very, very nicely in Trestman offenses, particularly as receivers, which gets them away from the mauling they take on interior runs.
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In 10 NFL seasons with Trestman in coordinator and/or quarterback-coach positions, his lead running backs averaged 65.4 receptions per year, from a low of 48 for Charlie Garner with the Oakland Raiders to a high of 91 for Garner one year earlier.
And there can be a lot of footballs to go around for backs: Derek Loville (87) and William Floyd (47) netted 134 catches for the 1995 San Francisco 49ers.
Garner’s 91 catches came in an offense that included Jerry Rice (92 receptions), Tim Brown (81) and Jerry Porter (51), and which got the Raiders to a Super Bowl.
Forte can read defenses. And he can read history.
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“I would expect [to be used more],” Forte said. “Coach Trestman, I think he said he watched a lot of film on me and has seen me run different routes. So we’ll get back to catching the ball out of the backfield like we did the prior years.”