Stock Watch: Forte shows his versatility
September, 17, 2013
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Jim PrischingMatt Forte racked up 161 yards from scrimmage in the Bears' victory over the Vikings in Week 2.
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler turned over the ball three times, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Instead of melting down, Cutler completed 8 of 10 (including a spike to stop the clock) passes for 76 yards on the club's game winning drive, and hit Martellus Bennett on a 16-yard scoring strike for the game-winner. Cutler has now engineered back-to-back comebacks against two 2012 playoff participants. Considering the way Cutler has been able to overcome adversity in these difficult games early on, you've got to be encouraged by his prospects later down the line in big games and possibly the postseason.
2. Matt Forte, RB: After a lackluster season opener in which he rushed for 50 yards on 19 attempts, Forte bounced back in a major way against the Vikings. Forte contributed 161 yards from scrimmage (90 yards rushing, 71 receiving), marking his 13th career game in which he's generated 150 yards or more. Forte was targeted more than any running back in the NFL in Week 2 (11 times) and caught every ball thrown his way. Forte was also a valuable contributor in pass protection. Furthermore, his yards per route run was the highest in the league of any RB and his drop pass rate was the lowest of any RB, according to Pro Football Focus.
3. Devin Hester, KR/PR: Hester seemed poised to bust a few big returns considering he's run back four returns for touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings, which is the most he's had against any team. When the Vikings returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD, Hester immediately responded on the ensuing kickoff with a 76-yard return. Hester broke his own 2006 record for return yards in a single game (225), by burning the Vikings for 249 yards. His 49.8 yards per return against the Vikings ranked as the third best in franchise history among players with three or more returns in a game.
1. Julius Peppers, DE: Peppers missed practice time last week after experiencing flu-like symptoms, and Bears coach Marc Trestman said the defensive end was even more ill against the Vikings than he had been in the previous two days leading into the game. Two games into the season, Peppers has not recorded a sack, and at this time last year, he'd already racked up two. That's not to say Peppers won't produce his third consecutive season with double-digit sack totals, because more than likely he will. But the veteran is certainly off to a slow start, having graded out negatively in both games.
2. Henry Melton, DT: Melton has actually graded out worse than Peppers through the first two games. The club gave Melton the franchise designation in the offseason with the hopes that it could eventually work out a long-term deal with the defensive tackle. But at this point, the franchise might be reconsidering its intentions. Melton has contributed three tackles thus far, with no sacks or quarterback pressures. Through the first two games of the 2012 season, Melton had posted three sacks. So like Peppers, Melton is off to a slow start.
3. Jermon Bushrod, LT: The prized acquisition of free agency, Bushrod signed on to be Cutler's blindside protection, and while he's been a significant upgrade over former left tackle J'Marcus Webb, there's still room for improvement. According to Pro Football Focus, Bushrod graded out as the worst of Chicago's offensive linemen against the Vikings. He surrendered a sack, a quarterback hit and three hurries against the Vikings. Through the first two games, Bushrod has given up two quarterback hits and six pressures, in addition to grading out negatively in each contest.