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Will John Fox's running back by committee approach change in Chicago?

5/11/2015

New Chicago Bears coaches John Fox and Adam Gase inherited a small issue that will test the way both men view the running back position.

Over a 13-year NFL head-coaching career that stretched from Carolina to Denver, Fox preferred a dual threat backfield where tailbacks often rotate in-and-out during the course of a game. That philosophy led C.J. Anderson (179) and Ronnie Hillman (106) to combine for 285 of the Broncos' 443 total regular-season rushing attempts (including quarterback scrambles) last season. In 2013, Knowshon Moreno (241) and Montee Ball (120) accounted for 361 of Denver's 461 total carries in the regular season.

Compare those numbers to Chicago where Matt Forte handled 266 of the Bears' 355 rushing attempts in 2014. The next highest total by a tailback -- rookie Ka'Deem Carey -- who ran the ball only 36 times.

"Well this is an unusual situation just because Matt has been in such great shape and has been so dynamic as far as staying on the field," Gase said at rookie minicamp. "We've just got to see how it plays out. In Denver, C.J. would hate me for saying this, but he got tired and was a little chubby sometimes. I mean, he got worn down quick and then we had to rotate backs in last year. Matt's an unusual situation in that position because he's able to play every play, or has."

Forte, 29, has been a workhorse since the drafted him in 2008, carrying the football 1,817 times in 107 career regular-season games. One of the best all-purpose backs in the league, Forte set a career-high in receptions (102) last season, staying on the field for 92 percent of the Bears' total offensive snaps.

It's highly unlikely Forte wants to see his playing time diminish, especially since he's in the final year of his contract.

How does Fox plan to handle the situation?

"It's a positive that he's had a number of carries and the production he's had, both catching the ball and running the ball," Fox said. "We've always been believers in kind of a one-two punch and rolling guys through there whether it's the defensive line; a wave of those guys to stay fresh. I've always had the approach the same thing with running backs. But as I tell guys they pick the team -- how they perform -- and it will be no different at running back, who that guy is and how dependable he is and if he earns that number of reps to get in. We're early in the process and hopefully somebody kind of sets themselves out."