Chicago Bears Season End Review Part III: The Running Backs

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IFebruary 6, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Bears went out, in free agency last season, and bolstered their running back position with the acquisition of Chester Taylor hoping that he would add a spark.  As it turned out, Matt Forte, who had a down season in 2009 ended up getting back to his rookie form and helped the Bears running game be an important part of their offense.

Unfortunately for the running game, it really didn’t become a factor until after the bye week, but Forte still managed to be effective in the passing game especially in the first few games of the season.  Taylor was not used as much as anyone thought that he would be, but he was effective in certain spots, especially in short yardage situations and provided a nice change of pace when he was used.

Not too many other players got a chance to see action running the football in 2010.

Let’s take a look at how the Bears running backs performed in 2010, what their stats were and where they stand heading into the 2011 season.

Matt Forte—After a difficult and somewhat unproductive 2009 season, Forte stormed back onto the scene in 2010 and helped the Bears offense move the ball effectively on the ground as well as control the clock in some situations.

In 2010, Forte had a total of 237 rushing attempts for 1069 yards with an average of 4.5 yards per rushing attempt.  He scored six touchdowns on the ground and had a long run of 68 yards.

In catching the ball, Forte caught 51 passes for 547 yards averaging 10.7 yards per catch.  His longest reception was 89 yards and he had three touchdowns through the air.

As mentioned, Forte became a very valuable asset to the Bears on offense especially after the bye week as the Bears went to a much more balanced offense.  Forte was much more effective this season, and his health showed.  The Bears were lucky to have him playing the way that he did.

There is no doubt that Forte will be back in 2011 (despite his request for a new contract) and that he will take a primary role in the Bear’s running game next season.  As long as he stays healthy and the Bears give him the ball often, he should have another solid season in 2011.

Chester Taylor—The Bears brought Taylor in to help supplement the running that Forte would be doing and to take over, in the event that Forte didn’t return to his rookie form.  Taylor was thought to still have fresh legs since he hadn’t been used as a primary running back for quite some time, and the coaching staff felt that he would provide a nice change of pace and could even become the primary running back should Forte falter.

It was a good thing that Forte ended up playing as well as he did because had the Bears been forced to rely on Taylor they clearly wouldn’t have done as well.

All together, Taylor had 112 rushing attempts for 267 yards averaging 2.4 yards per rush.  He had three touchdowns and his longest run was 24 yards.

Taylor also had 20 catches for 139 yards averaging 17 yards per catch with a long of 18.  He had no receiving touchdowns.

For the most part, Taylor was ineffective when the Bears played him.  The Bears also didn’t deploy Taylor properly.  When he came into the game, opponents would realize that the plan was to run the ball and would defend against the run limiting Taylor’s effectiveness.  That is why it would appear that he wasn’t that effective.  

He also struggled finding daylight on runs to the outside and is much more of an inside runner.  With a struggling offensive line, finding holes and getting good blocks in the middle was difficult.

Will the Bears keep Taylor around in 2011?  They almost have to because of the money that they still owe him, but look for them to use him more so they get that value for their money.  He could become their short yardage running back and has some value there.

Garrett Wolfe—After making the roster due to his ability to play on special teams, Garrett Wolfe didn’t see much action at all during the season.  He had just seven rushing attempts for 30 yards averaging 4.3 yards per rush.  His longest rush was 11 yards.

The Bears pride themselves in those guys that can play special teams, and that is the main reason why they kept Wolfe on the roster this season.

It’s possible that they could look for a couple running backs during the offseason (remember that they still have supplemental draft pick Harvey Unga as well) and if anyone one else steps up and can play special teams, it’s possible that Wolfe could be on his way out of Chicago.

Kahlil Bell—Bell didn’t see any action in 2010 and may be a victim of the numbers game this coming season if he doesn’t do something in training camp to stand out and show the team that he is worth keeping.

Harvey Unga—We didn’t get to see much of Unga as he ended up on injured reserve and didn’t see a single snap in the regular season.  Unga will get a shot to impress in training camp this summer, and he just might supplant Wolfe on the roster if he can prove himself and stay healthy.  Unga has good size for the position and could be an asset on special teams.

The Bears are pretty well set at running back heading into the 2011 season but may want to bring in some guys to compete for the positions behind both Taylor and Forte to see if they can get some quality backups there.  Wolfe may be headed out of town unless he continues to show his value on special teams (and the Bears feel that they can’t replace him).  Bell may be gone as well.

Unga should get a shot in training camp and hopes are high that he will be able to step up and become the third running back on the team in 2011.

As far as whether or not the Bears should bring some additional talent in at the position, they could look to bring in some guys to give the bottom of the depth chart some competition.  While we may not see any change at the top of the lineup there could be some new faces at the bottom in 2011.