Marc Trestman's Commitment to RB Matt Forte Is Paying off for Chicago Bears
In wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings, Forte averaged nearly 27 touches for 126 total yards and a score. Over 15 games last season with Mike Tice in charge, the Bears running back received less than 20 touches for under 100 yards per contest.
On far too many occasions in the recent past, Forte would be relegated to the third or fourth option in the Bears offense. His usage was often times maddening. Games with Forte receiving under 15 carries and just a few catches out of the backfield were more of the status quo instead of a rarity.
As Bob Dylan wrote, the times they are a changin'.
Trestman, a seasoned play-caller with experience handling running backs in Forte's mold, has brought a clear commitment to feeding his talented and versatile weapon each and every Sunday.
And while it's still early in a new season, the comparisons to Garner—a former back who thrived under Trestman—appear to have validity.
Over two games, Forte has rushed 38 times for 140 yards and a score. His 15 catches are the sixth most in the NFL and tied for Brandon Marshall for the team lead. For added context, consider that Forte's 15 grabs are over a third of the way to his 2012 total of 44.
Forte's early-season usage is following the same path Garner once blazed with the Oakland Raiders over a decade ago.
|Att/G||Rush Yrd/G||Rec/G||Rec Yrd/G|
Source: Pro Football Reference
As a 30-year-old back under Trestman in 2002, Garner ran for 942 yards and caught 91 passes for 941. Forte's current pace would give him season totals of 1,120 rushing yards and 120 catches for 896.
As expected, Forte is enjoying his expanded role in an offense he claims is finally intelligent, via Jon Greenberg of ESPN Chicago.
"Our offense is a smart offense," Forte said. "Coach Trestman runs a very smart offense where we're not going to force anything. If a defense is giving us something we're going to take it."
The continued commitment to Forte has been the most encouraging sign through two weeks.
Even when facing a stiff challenge from the Bengals front seven in Week 1, Trestman gave Forte 19 carries and four other touches in the passing game. The Bears offense of previous years might have abandoned Forte altogether when early rushing attempts turned up little value.
But Trestman has an obvious understanding of how important Forte is to what the Bears do on offense. His ability as a runner—when the play-calling commits to giving him carries—takes pressure off the offensive line and quarterback Jay Cutler. His chops as a receiving back also put defensive coordinators in a bind, as few linebackers can handle Forte in space.
Those attributes were on display against the Vikings in Week 2.
How many receptions will Matt Forte collect if he stays healthy for 16 games in 2013?
For the second straight week, Forte received 19 carries in a game that remained close throughout. He managed a respectable 90 rushing yards against a good, but not great, defensive front.
But it was Forte's impact as a receiver that became the highlight, as he caught 11 of 11 targets for 71 yards. His 11 catches were the most by a running back since Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints caught 13 in Week 2 of last season.
Quarterback Jay Cutler went to Forte time-and-time again, and especially when plays broke down or pressure came. He was a clear No. 2 option behind Brandon Marshall in the Chicago passing game.
There's no reason to think that Forte's usage will see a dramatic fall with Trestman in charge of the offense.
In 2002, Garner caught at least three passes in 15 of 16 games. His rushing attempts fluctuated, but only because Tyrone Wheatley was used as a compliment in the backfield. While Forte has Michael Bush behind him, the Bears No. 2 back has just eight carries in two games.
This is Forte's position, regardless of situation or down. And with Trestman calling the plays, that means Forte will rightfully remain a vital part of what the Bears do on offense throughout this season.
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