Sticky Fingers from the Backfield

In addition to wide receiver Earl Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen, the Bears have a third receiving option that has demonstrated the ability to secure nearly every pass thrown his direction.

Bear Report recently looked at the ability of wide receiver Earl Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen to snag nearly every pass thrown their way. Bennett dropped nary a pass last season, and Olsen's three-year drop total is second best in the league for his position.

Yet there is one other player that, over the past three seasons, has demonstrated hands like glue: running back Matt Forte. Last year, his third in the NFL, Forte rushed for 1,069 yards and caught 51 balls for 547 yards. He was the first player since Neal Anderson in 1987 to total more than 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

His 51 catches were actually the lowest of his career, having caught 57 and 63 passes in 2009 and 2008 respectively. The consistency he's shown in the passing game has to do with his glue-like hands.

According to Pro Football Focus, Forte dropped just two of the 66 catchable balls sent his way, or 3.03 percent. His drop percentage was ninth best in the league. Yet even more impressive has been his receiving ability during the past three seasons.


RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Since 2008, Forte has dropped just seven out of 191 catchable balls, or 3.66 percent. His drop percentage is fifth best in the league over that time span, behind only Pierre Thomas in New Orleans, Steve Slaton in Houston, Felix Jones in Dallas and Jason Snelling in Atlanta.

No other NFC North running back had a drop percentage in the top 10. On the other hand, Minnesota's All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, arguably the best pure runner in the game, is at the very bottom of the list. He has dropped 15.57 percent of his 122 catchable balls – the lowest of any NFL running back during that three-year period.

There's often talk that Jay Cutler, and to a lesser extent Mike Martz, is handcuffed by a lack of dependable receiving options. Yet that couldn't be further from the truth. The Bears have three players at three different positions that are like vacuums when it comes to hauling in passes. No other team in the league boasts as many sure-handed players at as many different positions.

These numbers demonstrate that the perceived need for upgrades in Chicago's passing game may be nothing more than panicky fans and analysts who feel a big-name player is the answer to what ails the offense. In reality though, the Bears have more than enough players with good hands to make the passing game hum at a high level.

Improving the offense isn't a personnel problem; it's about scheme and execution. Martz, about to enter his second year as Chicago's offensive coordinator, needs to continue building game plans around these players' ability to pluck the pigskin. Additionally, Jay Cutler must be able to recognize on the fly who his go-to receivers are and make sure that, instead of chucking a 40-yard bomb to speedster Johnny Knox, he slings it to one of his sticky fingered receivers.

The foundation is there. Now is the time for the architects of the offense to take advantage of the weapons at their disposal.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider


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