Matt Forte was born to play running back in Marc Trestman’s offense and he proved it this past season with the best performance of his career.
Forte carried the ball from scrimmage 289 times, second only to his 316 attempts his rookie year. He also totaled a career-best 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns.
What makes him so perfect for what Trestman wants to do is that Forte also had a career-best 74 receptions for another 594 yards – also a career high – and three more touchdowns.
The 12 scores tie his career best, also established in his 2008 rookie season.
Forte joins LeSean McCoy as a Pro Bowl starter.
Inexplicable backup Michael Bush had arguably his worst season in the NFL. Bush got just 63 carries, a 34 percent decline off his 95 carries in 2012 and he managed just 197 yards for a 3.1 average and three touchdowns.
If you take out Bush’s long run of 40 yards, he averaged just 2.5 yards on his other 62 carries, and he failed repeatedly in third, fourth and short situations.
Tony Fiammetta was a blocking fullback who didn’t carry the ball from scrimmage but caught four passes for 57 yards and did a nice job clearing paths for Forte.
By any measure, Forte deserves an A. But we’re not grading him alone. The idea here is to rate the Bears running backs and running game, and as good as Forte was, the Bears finished just 16th in the NFL in rushing but were seventh in average yards per carry.
We have to give the running backs/running game a B+, held back only by Bush’s off year and the lack of a commitment to running in the gameplan.
Forte, Bush, Ford and Fiammetta are all signed through the 2015 season, but salary cap issues loom. Forte’s 2014 cap hit will be $7.5 million and Bush will dent the cap by $3.85 million. Fiammetta is scheduled to make just $745,000 with nothing guaranteed, so he will most likely be back, and Ford is a bottom of the roster guy who will again have to earn a spot in training camp.
Forte will be back, most likely under his existing deal, or the Bears may attempt to add a year or two to lessen his cap hit.
With all of the Bears needs on defense, Bush is most likely gone to free nearly $4 million of cap space.
If Bush is gone, look for the Bears to either find a young veteran in free agency or draft a player who is a between the tackles runner to specialize in short yardage.
Beyond that, there is no reason to expect anything other than another stellar year from Forte.