Getting Forte some help
There was one other interesting nugget from Larry Mayer's interview with Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner over on ChicagoBears.com. Turner was upfront in acknowledging that he needs to do a better job of spreading the ball among Bears running backs in 2009.
Tailback Matt Forte took 80 percent of the carries Chicago gave to its running backs last season, and his 316 rushes ranked No. 4 in the NFL. When you add in his 63 receptions, Forte actually touched the ball 379 times -- more than all but two players in the league: Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (384) and Atlanta's Michael Turner (382).
Turner specifically said he would like to get Garrett Wolfe more involved in the offense. Here's his full answer when asked if the team will spread the ball out more next season:
"Yes, we will. It's something that we've talked about since the season's been over. Matt Forte is so good that it's hard to take him off the field. But we also know we have to. We want to get him in the neighborhood of 20-25 touches a game. That still leaves plenty of opportunities to get somebody else in there. We definitely know we need to incorporate other people. Garrett Wolfe is a guy we want to do that with. We wanted to do it a little more this past year than what we did. A lot of it has to do with Adrian Peterson. We've got so much confidence in 'AP.' When we take Matt out and put 'AP' in, whether it's a third-down situation, a blitz pickup or all the different things, we know he's going to be in the right place to do the right thing. We just need to develop the same kind of confidence in Garrett and whoever else is in there."
Turner gives himself a little bit of breathing room here, but not too much. Forte's 379 touches last season breaks down to 23.8 per game. That means Turner can shift about three touches per game -- or, 48 over a 16-game season -- and still achieve the goal of getting the ball into Forte's hands at least 20 times per game.
For those who are worried, Forte didn't come close to the vaunted "Curse of 370" statistic popularized by our friends at Football Outsiders. That theory points out that running backs who get 370 or more carries in a season tend to have noticeable production declines in ensuing seasons. But it only counts for carries, not total touches, on the premise that a running play is likely to be more punishing than a pass reception.