Last time out we discussed the quarterback position for the Chicago Bears, so we'll stay in the offensive backfield and check out the running backs.
Matt Forte - Signed through 2015 - Forte was a perfect fit for Marc Trestman's version of the West Coast Offense, or TCO if you will. He set career highs in rushing yards, receiving yards, receptions and rushing touchdowns. His 363 total touches are a little high for my liking, but it's hard to pull him off the field when he's so much better than the #2.
The fellas at Pro Football Focus had Forte as their #16 tailback with a +8.9 overall grade. His one downfall this season according to PFF was his blocking. They had him as their worst blocker at -5.5, with -4 of that attributed to his pass blocking. This was his worst blocking grade since 2009, and last year he was a +2.8.
With backs, a whiff or two a game is all it takes to kill their blocking grade. For some perspective, Forte only had three negative pass blocking games all season, and one negative run blocking game. Those 4 "red" graded games totaled -7.2. Every other blocking grade he received was neutrally graded.
I'm honestly not concerned about his blocking moving forward. His mistakes he made this year were all correctable.
Tony Fiammetta - Signed through 2015 - The Bears used fullback Fiametta on 21% of their offensive snaps (220), and he added another 124 on special teams. On offense PFF gave him a +1.2 and on special teams he received a -1.5. I would like to see the Bears hand the ball off to Fiammetta on occasion, if for no other reason than to keep the defense honest. He had four receptions on the year, one of which was a 30 yard catch and run. He showed some good fullback speed on that play, so why not throw the kid an occasional bone.
I think Fiammetta needs to get a little stronger, and sustain his blocks a little better next year, but I can see why the Bears rewarded him with some new paper.
Michael Bush - Signed through 2015 - After a slow start to his 2013 season, I thought Bush played good down the stretch. I don't think it was good enough to ensure his place on the 2014 roster however. The Bears could save nearly $2 million if they slice Bush from the payroll, but they'll have to be 100% certain the next man up can pass block, can catch, and knows the playbook.
PFF had Bush at -3.6 on the season. Again, his overall grade was buried by one real bad game. Against the Giants they had him at -2.2, and that was is only negative grade for the season. He had one positive game, and 14 were neutral.
Bush averaged only about 4 touches per game last year, so finding someone that can at least match his production -- but at a cheaper cap hit -- is definitely an option.
Michael Ford - Signed through 2015 - Ford, who was an undrafted rookie free agent last off season, came out of nowhere to land a roster spot. It took him a few weeks to earn a spot on special teams, but he played in 12 games on the season. His 187 special teams snaps were 39% of Chicago's ST snap total.
PFF had him as the worst Bears special teamer at -6.0, but that's not unheard of with a rookie. I think he'll have a good shot at sticking around next year.
Willie Carter - Signed a reserve / futures contract - Carter is a 6'1" 230 pound fullback that flashed some athleticism at his pro day last year while at Tulsa. He had 61 and 49 receptions in his Junior and Senior season, so he has a prototypical catch out of the backfield skill set that a WCO can utilize. If he can show the ability to block at the NFL level, he could be a guy to watch out for.
2014 OUTLOOK - I think the only sure thing at the running back position for 2014 is Matt Forte. There's a good chance Bush is a cap casualty. Ford, while having potential, could be outplayed by another youngster. Fiammetta, even though he was re-signed, carries no guaranteed money, so if he's outplayed by another fullback he could be gone.
With an offensive minded head coach it would not surprise me to see the Bears draft a late round running back, if one falls that's high on their board. Regardless of if they draft a guy or not, expect two or three rookie tailbacks to come into camp, and maybe another fullback.
What are your thoughts on the running back position for 2014?
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