2012 was a down year for Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. Between injuries and a questionable offensive scheme, Forte struggled to be consistent from week to week. Some think it could have been that he finally received that new long-term contract, but looking at what he was against last year, the numbers may open some eyes.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears ranked 27th in run blocking. Couple that issue with an offensive scheme that simply did not work, and you have your real answer why Forte struggled to get going in not only the run game last year, but also was not a big part of the passing game.
Looking back at the two prior years before Mike Tice‘s tenure at offensive coordinator, Mike Martz utilized Forte as not only a top-10 runner, but also a top receiving target on a question receiving corps.
In 2011, Forte lead all receivers and running backs in all-purpose yards through 11 games before going down early in week 13 with a season-ending injury. In 2010, Forte ran for 1,069 yards, while collecting 547 receiving yards off of 51 receptions. All this due to his freakish athletic ability coupled with a Martz system that knew how to utilize running backs in more than just the run game.
Just look at Marshall Faulk‘s career and that will show all you need to know.
Looking to this year, GM Phil Emery brought in respected offensive mind Marc Trestman who, much like Martz, has been known to run a high-powered “West Coast Offense”. Trestman has never had a head coaching job in the NFL, but in his 10 years as either an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, his running backs have averaged a whopping 65 receptions per year.
Forte’s average reception line since coming into the league has been just over 53 receptions per year, while missing five games in that career span.
The good news does not stop here, though.
Emery and Trestman also added top offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who led the New Orleans Saints‘ lineman to 12 combined Pro Bowls over a five-year span. After adding Kromer to the mix, the new staff went out and added three big pieces to a successful blocking scheme with former Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod, left guard Matt Slauson and tight end Martellus Bennett, who is a very good blocker.
The formula is clear in this equation: Emery and Trestman both understand the importance to not only a good offensive scheme, but a good line to be able to execute a multi-threat offense that airs the ball out, as well as relying on a vicious ground attack to break tempo and punish defenses come December and January when the temperature drops.
With Michael Bush looking to get a good amount of carries and vulture short-yardage touchdowns, Forte will get that needed push along with a better offensive approach to truly help him become a top-five fantasy running back.
The focus has turned from defense to offense for this Bears team and with some much-needed moves, I expect that most NFL fans will hear Forte’s name much more this season than in any of his five prior seasons. He will not have an Adrian Peterson-type season, but he will threaten to break 2,000 all-purpose yards this year.
My final prediction on a stat line for Forte: 1,200 yards off 260 touches, and 60 receptions for 600 yards and 11 total touchdowns.