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Matt Forte: Where's He Running?

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Entering this 2009 season, the biggest concern expressed by many of us was the lack of significant talent in our wide receivers department.  As the year has progressed though, it seems that focus has shifted.

We have experienced a surprisingly slow start in our running game, and it seems like Bears fans have finally started tapering down areas to place the blame.  Early in the season, Ron Turner was being criticized for his uninventive play-calling.  But, it didn't take long before Matt Forte was being assigned the blame for his poor start. However, in light of the loss in Atlanta, a lot of fans are starting to look at the offensive line as the root of the problem.

A few days ago, WCG member MuleTrain brought us some numbers from Football Outsiders that showed us how the running game is being spread out. After looking at that FanPost, I decided to take the analysis a little deeper, and exclusively focus on Matt Forte. 

On the season, Matt Forte has rushed the ball 86 times for 294 yards (3.4 avg.) and 1 TD.  Where is he running the ball?

LE: 12 rushes/ 64 yds/ 1 TD/ 1 first down run/ 5.33 yd avg. (includes a 37 yard TD run)

LT: 12 rushes/ 23 yds/ 0 TD/ 0 first downs/ 1.92 yd avg.

LG: 16 rushes/ 85 yds/ 0 TDs/ 2 first downs/ 5.31 yd avg. (includes a 61 yard run)

Mid: 18 rushes/ 40 yds/ 0 TDs/ 2 first downs/ 2.22 yd avg.

RG: 14 rushes/ 40 yds/ 0 TDs/ 3 first downs/ 2.8 yd avg.

RT: 5 rushes/ 24 yds/ 0 TDs/ 1 first down/ 4.8 yd avg.

RE: 9 rushes/ 19 yds/ 0 TDs/ 0 first downs/ 2.11 yd avg.

I know many of you don't like the idea of subtracting runs, but if you do take away the 37 yard run and the 61 yard run, Forte would be averaging 2.45 yds over the LE and 1.6 yds over the LG.

I even broke down the rushing plays by down, and came up with:

1st down: 39 rushes/ 75 yards (1.92 avg)

2nd down: 38 rushes/ 209 yards (5.5 avg), which includes both big runs. (3.08 avg without them)

3rd down: 9 rushes/ 11 yards (1.22 avg)

The majority of running plays are being called in the middle, and over the two guards.  When they do run to the tackle and outside, they call almost twice as many plays to the left side of the line.

The lowest average yards per carry comes over the LG spot, Frank Omiyale's spot.  That is also where more running plays get called than any other place.

The right side of the line is arguable where the two best run blockers reside (Roberto Garza and Chris Williams), yet 40 running plays have been to Orlando Pace and Frank Omiyale's side, versus 28 to Garza and Williams's side.

We always have to take into account the strength of the defense, and where the best run stuffers are.  But, over 5 games, I think we can say that we just aren't evenly running to both sides of the line.

Say what you will about Matt Forte this season, but these numbers show that none of our offensive linemen are doing a good job at run blocking.  The only place where we have a good yard per carry average is over the right tackle (4.8 yds), but we have only run the ball 5 times there.

Take away the 61 yard run, and our left guard and left tackle spots are only yielding a 1.6 and 1.9 yard average respectively.  Pace has shown to be effective in the passing game, but is obviously being just as ineffective as Omiyale during rushes.

Bottom line: The Bears do not have any offensive linemen who are reliable in the running game (only exception might be Williams, but the sample size is too small).  We cannot continue to put the burden on Matt Forte, and honestly, Ron Turner is not seeing success at running the ball in any hole, on any down.

We are already without our 1st and 2nd round draft picks in the 2010 draft, so the Bears are going to have to decide how to get some offensive linemen on the roster next season that can actually do a good job blocking.  

Olin Kreutz and Orlando Pace are considered "over the hill" in terms of years played, Roberto Garza is getting close to that group as well, and Frank Omiyale is obviously not a long-term answer at this point either.  That leaves us next year with possibly one offensive lineman that we can rely on, and the jury is still out on him.

And of course, there is the rest of the 2009 season as well.

Free agents, anyone?