I already looked at quarterback, tight end, center, guard, and tackle in this ongoing series touching on each position on the Chicago Bears roster with an eye towards 2011. Next up is the running backs. It isn't a need position for the Bears in 2011 with Matt Forte showing he's a great fit for the offense, but you should still expect to see some changes on the roster.
Matt Forte - signed through 2011 - Make no mistake about it, Matt Forte is underpaid for what he's accomplished in the NFL when healthy. When the labor situation is worked out, look for the Bears to try and extend his contract. His skill set is perfect for the Mike Martz offense, and I'd expect him to look even better next year.
As a rookie, Forte was the 12th rated RB in football according to Pro Football Focus. In 2009, while battling injuries, he slipped all the way to 63rd which was dead last among backs with enough playing time to qualify. Last season, Forte was up among the elite at 6th overall. He was just below Adrian Peterson and just above Maurice Jones-Drew. Forte was the #4 rated pass catcher out of the backfield and the 3rd best blocker among tailbacks.
Chester Taylor - signed through 2013 - Will the Bears really spring Taylor? I don't see it happening. In watching his plays in 2010 he never had much of a chance on many of his runs. Getting hit at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, and he wasn't utilized in the passing game that often. I think his experience will keep him around for at least one more season.
PFF gave him an overall neutral grade (the 39th halfback) and his blocking was a positive. With a better understanding from all the offensive personnel I think Taylor will get back to being the kind of player the Bears thought they were getting when they signed him.
Garrett Wolfe - free agent - I don't see any scenario where Wolfe returns. They love his special teams ability, but resigning a veteran running back simply for ST isn't gonna happen.
Kahlil Bell - exclusive rights free agent - I think Bell is around to compete for a spot next year - he'll need to show a knack for covering kicks if he wants to stick around.
Harvey Unga - signed through 2013 - The big bodied, short yardage specialist the Bears lacked in 2010 may have been on injured reserve. If Unga can play like a 6' 237 pound runner can, and run with power like he did at BYU, he could quickly become a fan favorite. The Bears really hope Unga will be that short yardage guy.
Eddie Williams - contract undisclosed - Williams is a fullback/H-back type that will be a camp body. He'll have to really stand out in order to make the final roster. He's a practice squad possibility.
2011 OUTLOOK - The success of the running back position will depend on the improvements the Bears make to their offensive line. Matt Forte finally had a respectable yards per carry (4.5), but if the O-line regresses, look for his play to take a hit. But, all indications are that the line will make strides, so we can expect Forte, and the running game, to keep trending up. Don't expect any free agents to come in, other than maybe a youngster to get some reps in camp. I wouldn't expect a running back to be drafted either.
WCG Rookie Timothy Hockemeyer will be giving his take on some roster stuff as well, check out his debut post here.