Matt Forte: Value For Money In Chicago?

Wesley Hitt

Even I was on the train at some points this past off-season, as the 'pay Forte' locomotive gathered speed. There were voices far and wide calling for the Chicago Bears to reward their star running back with a new contract. And Forte received his wish as he was signed to a four-year, $30 million deal.

But as we move towards the tail end of the regular season, it's now time to ask whether the Bears are really getting their money's worth?

I think I mentioned earlier in the week, that Forte has been somewhat of a disappointment this year. And I still stand by that. He ranks just 19th in the league in rushing yards with 683, giving him a not so terrible 4.3 yards per carry. However, he has averaged just 68.3 rushing yards per game, putting him behind players such as BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Willis McGahee.

Not that he has ever been a scoring machine, but he has just three rushing touchdowns on the year. Granted, Michael Bush is a bit of a touchdown vulture, getting a lot of the goal line work, but it's almost certain that the Bears would have liked more TDs from Forte.

What has been most noticeable is Forte's absence from the passing game. Once viewed as a legitimate dual threat, I don't think teams have to be as scared as they once were of Forte. He has just 27 receptions this season, compared to the 63 he has in his rookie year. Yes, I know the season's not over yet, and he has missed a game this year, but I don't see that number jumping up too dramatically.

But how much blame can we lay at the feet of Matt Forte?

The Bears have a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice, who is still trying to stamp his identity on the team. It's fair to say that head coach Lovie Smith would still like the Bears to be a run-first team, but with Brandon Marshall proving to be the Bears' most lethal weapon, it's understandable if they have got away from the run a little.

Forte has shown that he has the ability to break off some big runs. Just last year, despite playing only 12 games, he managed to rush for more than 20 yards on 12 occasions. This year he has just three rushes for 20 yards or more. Adrian Peterson clearly leads the league with an impressive 14 rushes for 20+ yards.

It's easy to imagine how things might be different if Forte played behind a better offensive line. And of course, a dominating line would lead to better play from the running back, but Forte and the Bears have to play the cards they are dealt. They also need to find a way to get Forte more involved in the passing game, and get more production out of him as a rusher.

It has been noted how one dimensional the Bears have been at times this season, with Cutler and Marshall being the only real standouts on offense. Chicago is not an offense that is going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. But it could well be a whole lot scarier if Matt Forte were playing to a higher standard.

The Bears need to put more faith in Forte. They gave him the deal he wanted. they obviously want him to be an integral part of the team. Give him the ball some more. At the moment, he averages just 13.9 carries a game. He can handle more than that, and the Bears will benefit if he rushes more than that.

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