(Disclaimer: Statistics don’t necessarily mean anything. These regarding the Bears’ 2013 offense probably don’t mean anything either…probably.)
Maybe, just maybe, the most important backup at the so-called skill positions isn’t the No. 3 wide receiver or even the No. 2 quarterback, but rather the No. 2 running back. Consider:
The 2013 Bears had 10 games in which they posted a 100-yard receiver. They lost six of those, including Detroit Part II when both Alshon Jeffery (114) and Brandon Marshall (139) topped 100 and all five of Jeffery’s 100-yard games.
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But they were 3-2 in games with Matt Forte netting 100 rushing yards, and that includes Green Bay Part II with its closing-seconds defensive breakdown. What that means is certainly open to question, although it more than double-underscores the importance of Forte to the Chicago offense.
In defense of the tilt toward passing with the change from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman (the 2013 Bears ran the ball on fewer than 40 percent of their snaps), an argument could be that the defense wasn’t going to stop anyone, so the burden was on the offense to score a lot, which it did, and that means throwing.
Or is the best defense a good running offense, which keeps your defense off the field and theirs on it?
The Bears led in time of possession in four of Forte’s five 100-yard games and won three of those. So maybe the most important backup job for this year’s Bears is not the No. 3/nickel receiver, but rather the No. 2 running back – someone who can spell Forte without the conspicuous falloffs that came with failed No. 2’s Marion Barber, Michael Bush and Chester Taylor.
An effective Forte/understudy (Ka’Deem Carey?), which involves running and receiving, obviates some of the need for and pressure on the nickel package. Productive first and second downs reduce the number of third-and-longs.
The development of Marquess Wilson or any other No. 3 receiver is clearly critical to Bears fortunes in 2014 and beyond, whether as relief for or supplement to Jeffery/Marshall. Third-down/nickel conversions can make or break offenses. And the Bears were 8-2 last season when they had the ball more than half the time.