Sunday, July 31, 2011
If Marion Barber is the Bears' GTG back ...
By Kevin Seifert
Running back Marion Barber's arrival in Chicago begged an immediate discussion about current backup Chester Taylor's future with the Bears. As of Sunday morning, however, Taylor was still with the team and told reporters he had been given no indication that Barber would be given his job.
Asked to explain why he thought the Bears signed Barber, Taylor said: "He's a big back, he can help us out on goal line and short yardage as well. [He can] just come up here and bring us that toughness we need. Hopefully help us throughout the season when me and Matt [Forte] wear down or something like that."
(Hat tip to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com for passing along the quotes.)
Whether he intended to or not, Taylor accurately identified the biggest deficiency of the Bears' backfield entering camp.
For all of his attributes, Forte has been ineffective near the goal line over the past two seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has five touchdowns in 57 goal-to-go (GTG) carries since the start of 2009.
The NFL's top goal-line runners average about one touchdown on every three such carries. Last season, Mike Tolbert of the San Diego Chargers led the league with 10 scores on 21 goal-to-go carries.
The Bears hoped that Taylor would offer a stronger alternative last season. He scored three touchdowns in 13 opportunities, and it's quite possible the Bears view Barber as a better alternative in short-yardage situations.
Barber is a notoriously hard runner, but his difficult season in 2010 also extended to his success near the goal line. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he scored on three of 18 opportunities.
Taylor is signed for a relatively modest $1.275 million in 2011, so there is little risk for the Bears if they keep him on the roster at least until they know exactly what they can get from Barber. But the window is pretty narrow for Taylor if Forte is going to be the starter and Barber the short-yardage specialist.