Pre-camp check: Running backs

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
9:00
AM ET
Overview: Matt Forte racked up a career-high 1,933 yards from scrimmage last season, which ranked as the fifth most in franchise history, and he did it in a new offense. In Year 2 in Marc Trestman’s offense, Forte figures to put up similar numbers as the staff refines the scheme to focus on the club’s strengths.

Forte
Forte
“Last year, we had to figure out what we were gonna be good at,” Forte said, “and I think that’s just being balanced between the run and the pass. We kind of started out heavy pass early last season, and kind of sprinkling in runs. Then we found out what kinds of runs the O-line likes to block and were good at with the tight ends. Then we started doing different types [of runs]. [Offensive coordinator Aaron] Kromer is good at mixing them up between runs. Being balanced this year and already knowing with the offensive line likes to block is gonna give us a little head start.”

Battle to watch: Forte’s got the top spot locked up, obviously. So the most intriguing competition at this position at training camp will involve rising second-year man Michael Ford and rookie fourth-round pick Ka’Deem Carey. Team officials and coaches typically mention that money doesn’t play into personnel decisions, but that’s not always the case. The Bears paid Carey $443,380 in a signing bonus, while Ford, last season received $3,500. So it’s likely Carey will be given more opportunities than Ford to win the backup job behind Forte. But Carey’s got to win the position as the team simply won’t just hand it to him.

“I don’t feel any pressure. I like to have fun, and when I have fun, I play my best,” Carey said. “If I get worked up about trying to compete and trying to show what I’ve got, then I will just show out bad. I want to perform how I know how to perform. I walk around with a smile, and I have fun, and I perform.”

Ford, listed at 5-foot-10, 216 pounds is bigger than Carey. But the latter is considered more a grinder between the tackles as Ford seems to be more of a scat back type with impressive quickness. Carey was a contributor on special teams last season, which should help his cause.

Dark horse: Undrafted rookie Jordan Lynch probably won’t receive a real opportunity to see any playing time next season, and it’s going to be difficult for him to make the team. But the coaching staff likes Lynch, a former quarterback at Northern Illinois, and he could impress in the preseason if given the opportunity. Trestman has mentioned on multiple occasions that the former quarterback doesn’t look out of place playing running back, and he doesn’t. At NIU, Lynch rushed for 1,815 and 1,920 yards in back-to-back seasons. So there’s no question he can tote the pill. Lynch’s background as a quarterback likely means he’ll absorb Chicago’s playbook quickly enough to really open eyes in the preseason, provided he’s given a legit shot to play.

“I spent a lot of time in the film room in past years [as a quarterback], and I feel that work ethic is going to carry over to running back, and always watching film and trying to pick up on little things,” Lynch said. “I’m a football player. I love football, and I’ll do whatever it takes to stay in the NFL.”

Who makes the cut: The Bears finished the season with three running backs (Michael Bush, Ford and Forte) and a fullback in Tony Fiammetta. It’s likely the Bears head into 2014 with Forte, Carey and Ford along with Fiammetta. The best-case scenario for Lynch appears to be a spot on the practice squad.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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