When the Chicago Bears drafted Garrett Wolfe in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Northern Illinois, they anticipated him to be similar to what Darren Sproles is for the San Diego Chargers. A speedy, change-of-pace back to keep defenses honest when the premiere back is catching a breather.
Unfortunately, it seemed like Ron Turner tried implementing him at fairly inopportune times and situations. Wolfe would see little to no snaps throughout the first half of the game. Then suddenly, Turner would stick him in for three straight plays, which would be followed by a punt, and that would be the end to Wolfe's day on offense. It didn't make any sense.
Now I realize Wolfe's size (5'7", 185 lbs) doesn't exactly make him the most ideal player to have pick up blitzes and run defenders over getting that extra yard, but I still believe that he can succeed if you put him in situations where he can make plays. Under the previous regime, this didn't happen.
Over the past three years, Wolfe has accumulated 68 carries for 274 yards for an average of 4.0 YPC and one lone touchdown. Not terrible numbers for a backup running back over the course of one year, but not for three years. Plus, his receptions have been near nonexistent: 11 catches for 129 yards.
As Wolfe enters the final year of his contract, the argument can be made that this is both his final chance with the Bears AND his best opportunity. This is why:
While the Mike Martz offensive system is notorious for not running the ball, one thing Martz does do well is get the ball to fast guys in space.
Marshall Faulk had the best years of his career (in terms of receiving) under Martz,, including four straight years of 80+ receptions. While Matt Forte will get a majority of the work load, having a speed threat such as Wolfe in the backfield can be a very dangerous tool if Martz can utilize him. When Faulk and Stephen Jackson split snaps in 2005, they combined for 87 receptions (Jackson with 44, Faulk with 43) for over 600 yards. `
When Martz took over the offensive coordinator position for the Lions, Kevin Jones had 61 receptions for 520 yards out of the backfield in 2006, and the Lions' running backs, as a whole unit, followed that up with 64 receptions for 443 yards in the 2007 season.
Now Forte proved in 2008 that he can catch the ball out of the backfield (he led the entire team in receptions). But when he has to come out, having a speedster like Wolfe might make the fall-off seem a little less steep—especially considering that Kahill Bell is really an unknown commodity at this time.
This year is make or break one for Wolfe and, with an offensive "guru" like Martz, just maybe he can find a successful niche in the NFL.