One of the first things Chicago Bears' general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox expressed when taking over at their respective positions, was a desire to get back to running the football.
To become a more physical offense that runs the ball to set up the pass and not the other way around.
In order to do that you need a play caller that can stick with a game plan, an offensive line that is ready to play angry, and a running back (or backs) that are able to hit the hole with some authority.
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase proved he could stick with a more balanced approach last year in Denver, when they made a conscious effort to run more in the 2nd half of their season.
Part of Denver's running game success last year coincided with center Will Montgomery being inserted into the lineup. Montgomery is now a Bear and the odds-on favorite to start in 2015. Guards Kyle Long and Matt Slauson are always ready to get after someone in the running game and I'm sure left tackle Jermon Bushrod would welcome the chance to line up in a 3 point stance and fire out more than he has in the last two years.
Which brings us to the running backs and in particular, starter Matt Forte. While a relatively durable back, Forte is classified as more of a finesse player. He has an upright running style that doesn't lend itself to plowing through a pile for the tough yards.
He's at his best when going off tackle or around the edge. He excels as a pass catcher out of the backfield and he's even lined up split out wide on occasion.
Football Outsiders is an analytics site that looks at the game in a unique way and they recently went in depth on broken tackles.
For the purposes of their charting, they classify broken tackles three ways.
- The ball carrier escapes the grasp of a defender.
- The defender is in prime position to make a tackle, but the runner makes him miss.
- The ball carrier drags a tackler at least 5 yards after first contact.
Matt Forte has been know to juke a player or two in his day, but the other 2 classifications aren't his strong suit.
He actually ranked 12th last season in total broken tackles with 30, but when you factor in his total touches, his broken tackle rate is 8.2%. Among the 27 running backs with 20 or more broken tackles, that ranks last.
As you could probably guess, Marshawn Lynch ranked first in both broken tackles, with 88, and in broken tackle rate at 27.8%. At the absolute bottom of their rankings was the Oakland Raiders' Latavius Murray, who had 99 total touches and a 3% broken tackle rate.
Football Outsiders also ranked broken tackles for tight ends and wide receivers and the Bears had the #2 ranked player in that category. Tight end Martellus Bennett had 19, second to New England's Rob Gronkowski who had 24. Bennett's 21.1% broken tackle rate was 4th best in 2014 among TEs and WRs.
Chicago's entire offensive unit ranked 14th in broken tackle rate at 7%. "Beast Mode" helped the Seattle Seahawks come out on top of that category with a 12.2% with the Raiders dead last at 3.6%.
For those of you wondering if broken tackle rate has a correlation with success...
Six of the top nine teams in broken tackles per play made the playoffs, while seven of the bottom eight teams missed the postseason.
I'd say it's a possibility.