Ask any Bears fan about Chicago's running game during the 2007 season and they will likely change the subject to something completely non-football related.
"We are a football team that comes off the bus running," says Head Coach Lovie Smith.
We may come off the bus running, but I guarantee you that we don't make it past that last step of the bus before we're flat on our face.
The Chicago Bears ranked dead last in the NFL with an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
In 2005 the Bears used their fourth overall pick in the draft on Texas running back Cedric Benson. At the time, Benson was being hailed as the best back in the draft with the strength to break tackles, and the speed to go the distance.
What wasn't to like about him? He put up amazing numbers at Texas in his senior year. 1,824 yards with a 5.6 yards per carry average and 19 touchdowns. Sounds like a first rounder all the way.
After a disappointing 2007 season, the Bears were once again in the market for a reliable ball carrier.
They addressed this need at running back in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. With the 44th overall pick, the Bears selected Tulane running back Matt Forte.
The Bears fell in love with Matt Forte the minute they scouted him. At 6' 1" 224 lbs, he's a tough runner who can run between the tackles and has the speed to turn the corner. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield catching 103 passes for 985 yards and five touchdowns during his four years with the Tulane Green Waves.
Forte broke all sorts of rushing records with an outstanding senior year. Rushing for well over 2,000 yards averaging 5.9 yards per carry with 23 touchdowns, Forte looked like a first round talent.
“Until somebody proves that they’re the guy, then we have to make sure that we create as much competition at [running back] to make sure we get that done,” said general manager Jerry Angelo in an April, 25th interview. The Bears believe strongly that they have created that competition by selecting Matt Forte.
“I’m happy to be drafted by the Chicago Bears, especially as a running back,” Forte said in an interview on the Chicago Bears official website. “They have a great history of running backs that came through there. Hopefully I can take over and become one of those guys who makes history as a Chicago Bear just like they did.”
Forte will compete for the starting job against Benson this June when training camp starts."It’s not going to be given to me. I’m going to have to work hard and come in and compete. It’s a great chance for me to show I can play in this league and to do good and become a great running back in the NFL.” Matt Forte seems eager to begin his NFL career and has confidence that he can come in and make the starting roster by September.
Don't be surprised if, on September 7th at Indianapolis, number 32 is not lining up in the backfield.