Forte looking to build off '13

May, 30, 2014
May 30
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First they signed Chester Taylor to a $12.5 million deal; then they brought on Marion Barber to the tune of $5 million before adding Michael Bush the next year for $14 million.

Three years in a row, the Chicago Bears invested heavily in No. 2 running backs to play behind starter Matt Forte.

Now they're all gone. So forgive Forte for saying he feels “indifferent” about the Bears using a fourth-round pick to bring in yet another running back in Ka'Deem Carey.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Matt Forte had a career-best 1,339 rushing yards last season.
“Since I’ve been here, they’ve had a lot of running backs come in,” Forte said. “Even when I was going through my contract stuff, bringing in Michael, and the year before that Marion, and the year before that Chester Taylor; so it’s not like I don't care. But it’s not like I really care a lot. It’s just another guy who’s coming in. I can help him out if he wants to be helped. But at the same time, I’m worried about this offense and what I can do in it, and what we can do together.”

In 2013, Forte did quite a bit, putting together five games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage, including five 100-yard rushing performances. Forte ranks No. 3 since 2008 in yards from scrimmage (6,666 rushing yards and 2,919 receiving).

When Forte puts up at least 100 yards rushing, the Bears are 17-3.

Although the 2013 season represented somewhat of a positive change for Forte, who produced the second-lowest rushing total of his career in 2012 (997 yards), there is a sense that as well as the offense performed last season, it still hasn't reached its full potential.

“I would just say it was a little bit more carries than the year before,” Forte said. “So when that average yards per carry is up, then you get more carries and you get more yards that way. The offensive line did a great job especially last year, just basically getting me to the second level and letting me work from there. The receivers blocking downfield also helped a lot. We had, I think, three or four 50-plus yard runs, and you [don't] get that without blocking downfield and handling them up front.”

Now there is pressure to raise the bar this season, which is part of the reason the staff, according to Forte, told the team during meetings, “We can't be blinded by the success we had last year and think it’s gonna automatically come this year.” Forte believes the upcoming season will mark the first time in his career the team will bring back “the exact same offense” and the “whole starting offense.”

Now all involved need to validate the front office and coaching staff’s faith.

“We've got to work hard and try to obtain bigger and better things in the offense this year,” Forte said. “Not just statistically, but whole-game wide; finishing games, not letting teams get close, and just scoring more and more points each game.”

Throughout Forte’s tenure with the Chicago Bears, there has been the perception that he is not capable of moving the chains in short-yardage situations. In the past, Taylor, Bush and Barber took on those roles, and it’s unclear how the team plans to proceed in that area in 2014.

But Forte believes he’s capable of producing in short-yardage situations, and he is unmoved by the perception that he can’t.

“I don't care,” Forte said. “That’s part of the game that I can do. If they don’t want me to do it, then I won't do it. Obviously, Mike [Bush] was 240, 250 pounds and from looking from the outside you say, ‘Oh, he’s the short-yardage back.’ So it just depends on what the coaches feel like. If they want to put in this type of running play, maybe somebody else is better at running a different type of play that calls for short yardage. We haven't talked about it yet. But I'm pretty sure once we get close to the season, put on the pads and stuff, we’ll start going over that type of stuff.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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