Bears’ strategy: Get Matt Forte the ball
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org August 1, 2013 8:36PM
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Updated: August 2, 2013 7:28PM
BOURBONNAIS -- Here, there and everywhere. If you had to sum up how the Bears plan to use running back Matt Forte in three words, that would about do it.
But the success of that plan is in the details. For as much as this season is about finding out whether Jay Cutler is a franchise quarterback, it’s also about maximizing Forte with different looks and schemes and making him the complete weapon he should be.
Last season, that simply wasn’t the case as it seemed as if the Bears were unsure how to use arguably their best offensive player. This season, Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer appear to have devised an offense that ensures different results.
“Our idea is to get [Forte] the ball as much as possible,” Kromer said.
And it’s how he’s getting it and what his options are at that point that will look different.
Take the run game, for instance. Forte said the Bears utilized “a lot” of man-blocking schemes in 2012. Now, it’ll be a mixture with a big portion being zone blocking, where linemen work together to block an area as opposed to having predetermined players to block.
It’ll give Forte more options as runner, and it’s what he was part of at Tulane.
“[Man-blocking schemes are] good, but also difficult to block sometimes because defenses are always moving and nobody is going to be in a stationary place,” Forte said. “I like zone schemes, inside and outside, because it gives you a chance to read the play and use your vision as a running back.
“You can be patient and pick a hole to go to. If it’s a faster defense, sometimes you can press the hole and cut back. If it’s a two-gapping defense, you can just press, hit one hole and go.”
The Bears can be very tough to overcome when Forte is going. The Bears are 14-1 when Forte rushes for 100-plus yards. The fact that he has only 15 games of 100 yards rushing or more may be a sign that Forte could have been used better, because he certainly has the skills and versatility to be an elite back.
“Last year, they ran a lot of outside man-scheme plays, where they blocked down and pull around, and he had the speed to do that and patience to get on the blocks,” Kromer said. “I think you’ll see a variety of run styles this year scheme-wise, whether it’s inside, outside zones. It’s all different types of schemes to try and help him change what we’re giving the defense, and really he’s talented enough to do anything you ask.”
And then there’s the passing game. Forte had career lows of 44 receptions and 340 receiving yards last season. Don’t forget Kromer is coming from New Orleans, where Saints running back Darren Sproles had 86 and 75 receptions respectively in the past two seasons.
“[Forte] can make all the runs and he can run all the routes,” Kromer said. “We feel like we should utilize him as a receiver as an on-the-line player, getting open at the line of scrimmage, and coming out of the backfield and getting open in passes.”
Trestman said Forte is “at the top of everything” when it comes to grasping what the offense demands of him – and that’s a ton. Running backs coach Skip Peete called him a “very, very smart football player.”
“It’s quite a bit of verbiage and one or two words will indicate what your assignment will be and you’ve got to study,” Peete said. “And obviously these guys are studying because they come out there and there’s not a lot of questions of what do I do.”
Can the Bears’ offense actually be funneled through Forte?
“Well, he’s such a talented player that you ought to,” Kromer said. “You have to really have a play count -- how many times does this guy touch the ball? -- because he’s that kind of player. You want to get enough touches to him to help you win the game.”
Like Cutler, Forte appreciates the changes the Bears have made offensively. He points to the additions of left tackle Jermon Bushrod, and guard Matt Slauson up front and the arrival of tight end Martellus Bennett, whom he praised for his blocking prowess as much as his pass-catching.
“We have a lot of talent,” Forte said. “I don’t think there’s going to be one specific face [of the offense], but I’m excited about this offense because there’s a real good chance that I can succeed both in the passing game and in the running game.”