Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

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Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 10:25 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Matt Forte came as close to giving away a game plan this week as any player in the Lovie Smith tenure. And that would ostensibly be a good thing.

Going into Sundays game against Atlanta, Forte sent a message to the Falcons:

I expect to be how we were during the middle of the season last year when we started running the ball and be a balanced attack, the Bears franchise running back said. Both the pass and the run help each other out, so I think that well be balanced.

That message ideally is picked up by the Falcons, particularly sack threats and ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards, and has an effect similar to what the Bears achieved over the 7-2 run through the key portion of their schedule.

We did some good things at the end of the year, coach Lovie Smith said. We made progress I saw improvement throughout the year. And Ive seen that right now.
O-line help

The best help that coordinator Mike Martz can give young tackles Gabe Carimi and JMarcus Webb is to let them come off the ball and apply some muscle to Abraham and Edwards. Webb has a 70-pound advantage on Abraham. Carimi has 48 pounds on Edwards.

Whats perhaps been forgotten is that Lance Louis struggled early but never lost his starting job at right guard. Chris Williams ability to handle left guard faded as a topic of conversation, one of the nicest things that can happen to an offensive lineman.

Theyve made terrific progress in the last three weeks, particularly in the last two weeks, so Im anxious to see them play, Martz said. Well find out where we are with that. But Im excited about what theyve done so far. I think theyve got a chance to be a pretty good group.

Barber concerns

A factor in the improved performance by Forte, however, was Martzs willingness to have the ball handed to Chester Taylor 112 times and thrown to him another 20. Taylor was generally ineffective, which is why he is an Arizona Cardinal now rather than a Bear.

It is no coincidence, though, that Fortes career-best for yards per carry (4.5) was achieved when his workload was the lightest (237 carrries) of his career.

But the addition of Marion Barber from Dallas was made with the intention of not just lightening Fortes load; that could have been accomplished again with Taylor.

Barber has never averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry in his career (2010) or carried fewer than 113 times (also last year), one more than Taylor.

The calf injury Barber suffered against Tennessee in the preseason has had him out of practice ever since and he is not expected to play against the Falcons. Without his type of running, the ability of the offense to pound the Atlanta defense is reduced.

Hes such a violent runner, Martz said. Hes a guy that he can certainly jump-cut and do all of those things, but hell take a defender on, too, and break tackles that way. So hes kind of a complete back in that way. Hes a real tough, inside runner, but hes got the skills to get outside and hes an excellent receiver. Hes a guy that will excel, too, in short yards. We need to have him healthy. We really do.

Beyond Barber

What is different in the offense this year is that the presence of backup power to the backup power.

Kahlil Bell was inactive all 16 games last season as coaches were forced to have Garrett Wolfe on special teams. The trouble was, Wolfe was too small to suit Martz and was only used on four runs, all in the second Minnesota game.

Bell is 219 pounds, virtually identical with Barber and Forte.

Matts more comfortable with the scheme, and the offensive line and the way theyre opening holes, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Last year, Forte started a little slow, just like we all did, because everyone was getting comfortable with veering and we were trying to figure it out.

You add a Marion Barber a downhill guy, a short-yardage goal-line guy, packs a little more of a punch we got a good group back there.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

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Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

On this week’s Bears Talk Podcast, we hear from Markus Wheaton as Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz discuss the training camp competition at slot receiver.

Boden and Stankevitz also weigh in on PFF ranking the Bears’ starting lineup 18th in the NFL, answer listener questions and add another layer of Aaron Rodgers envy.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast right here:

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.”