Our Denmaster Spongie put this link in yesterday's Den from Pat Kirwan about 13 NFL running backs that he thinks could break the 300-carry mark in 2013. He went through 13 running backs, and didn't touch on one other likely candidate, Matt Forte.
Let's run a few numbers on the Bears' primary ballcarrier before we get into why I think his exclusion from that list isn't the worst thing on Earth.
Total Career Carries: 1,262
Average Carries Per Season: 252.4
Career High Carries in a Season: 316
Career Carries-Per-Game: 16.8
Projected Carries-Per-Game, Season Total: 268.8
Those are some pretty high-workload numbers. When you get down to it, if he gets 16.8 carries per game (or heck, round up to 17), he gets about 272 carries on the year. Another one or two per game, and he touches that 300-carry mark pretty easily.
And that's what I thought immediately, especially when you look at Kirwan's list and see C.J. Spiller and Le'Veon Bell listed, with the following reasoning...
11. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo: Spiller has been used lightly and worked with Fred Jackson, but it is time to work Spiller off what I saw last year. Spiller was fourth in the AFC in rushing with just 207 carries and averaged 6 yards a carry. To get to 300 carries only means six more runs a game.
12. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh: Bell is the rookie with the best chance to get a heavy workload. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is committed to running the ball, and the offensive line is shaping up to be a good run blocking group. It's a long shot that Bell gets 300 carries, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
So Spiller plus six carries per game and Bell with... well, zero record, get put on the list to make 300 carries, but Forte doesn't. I'm not sure at this point whether to laugh or shrug.
Probably shrug, because when you get to it, there's three reasons why it won't be Forte. And shouldn't be.
1) Forte's own production.
Forte's 316 carry year was his rookie season. Since then?
Average Carries - 236.5
Average Carries Per Game - 14.78
And last year was at 248 and 16.5, respectively. His workload's gone down, but he's been more productive as his yards-per-carry elevated over 4.4 each of the last three seasons.
2) Forte's Style of Use
Since Forte's arrival in 2008 and 2009, the Bears have tried to get him a short-yardage complement, striking out with Chester Taylor and signing Michael Bush to a four-year deal. Without these attempts at a qualified backup, Forte might have gotten even more of the short-yardage carries, instead of having them vultured to the tune of 114 carries by Bush in 2012 and 112 by Taylor in 2011.
3) Enter the Trestman Era
Then there's the style of offense being implemented in Chicago. Forte as a running back is a very good receiver, and plenty of his touches will come through the air instead of handoffs. And these are situations where Forte can be even more effective.
So, frankly, I hope Forte doesn't have 300 carries. The team will be better off for it. He could get 300 touches though. Last season he got 248 carries and 44 receptions, had another 288 in 2010, and broke 300 in 2009. If more of those are receptions, maybe the Bears offense does some things.