The Jones Effect: What Happens Now?

Now that they have added Kevin Jones, the Chicago Bears need to rearrange their depth chart to some degree. Is Matt Forte still the featured back? Should Adrian Peterson be more than just a contributor on special teams? Will Garrett Wolfe get his chance to compete? Bear Report has the answers inside ...

MATT FORTE
Before Jones:
Taken in the second round of this past April's NFL Draft, Forte was in line to be the unquestioned starter at tailback after the team finally said goodbye to Cedric Benson. Forte rushed for 2,127 yards last season at Tulane, showing good hands out of the backfield and a willingness to block in the passing game. The coaching staff was very impressed with him during the offseason program, which probably made it easier to kick Benson to the curb.


After Jones: Forte is still the odds-on favorite to start Week 1 at Indianapolis, but now he won't have as much pressure on him to shoulder the load for 20-25 carries each and every Sunday. It's quite possible that Jones opens the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list since he's just seven months removed from an ACL tear, although he has a history of being a quick healer and is way ahead of schedule with his rehab. While Forte and Jones don't really complement each other with thunder-and-lightning styles, they could still develop into a solid one-two punch down the stretch.

Looking ahead: Jones is only on the books for a one-year contract, meaning he's using this season as an audition for the other teams in the league to show that he can stay healthy and be productive. Even with Jones now in the mix, Forte is still being counted on as the focal point of this offense both this season and in the future. Forte might even learn a thing or two from Jones, who has always run hard and been a team-first guy.

ADRIAN PETERSON
Before Jones:
Peterson was pretty good in a backup role last season and finished second on the team with 51 receptions, but he wasn't nearly as effective as a starter after Benson went down with that fractured ankle in Week 12. As a matter of fact, before Benson was pink-slipped, it's possible Peterson could have been a training-camp casualty since he's little more than a glorified special-teamer at this point. He's always been a contributor on the coverage units, but special teams coordinator Dave Toub has plenty of playmakers who can excel in his system.


After Jones: Forte-and-Jones has a much better ring to it than Forte-and-Peterson, which means Peterson will have to make himself invaluable on special teams once again. Jones is much stronger, much faster, and offers much more upside, so look for him to unseat Peterson as the secondary ball-carrier once he's cleared by the medical staff. Peterson would really have to come out of the gate strong in order to maintain a significant role on offense, but he better shift some of his focus to punts and kickoffs in the interim.

Looking ahead: Peterson's future with the team is cloudy at best, as he's now 29 years old and isn't starter material in the NFL. His contract is another thing working against him right now – it wouldn't cost the team a dime against the salary cap to cut him. The Midway Monsters might have to keep four tailbacks if they want to hold on to Peterson, which means he's far from a lock to make the 53-man roster.

GARRETT WOLFE
Before Jones:
After not getting much of a chance as a rookie to justify being selected in the third round a year ago, Wolfe was in line to make a serious run as the change-of-pace back behind Forte. Everybody knows that Wolfe is too small at 5-7 and 186 pounds to handle the punishment he'd take as an every-down back, but a Forte-and-Wolfe pairing had the makings of being much more productive than Benson-and-Peterson was in 2007. Both Forte and Wolfe can be effective rushing and receiving, so offensive coordinator Ron Turner's play-calling may not have been so predictable.


After Jones: It's hard to fathom exactly there Wolfe fits in with the Bears at this juncture, at least with regard to the ground game. But he was used frequently on special teams later in the schedule last year because opponents were terrified to kick the ball deep to Devin Hester, so Wolfe saw some time as an upback and should rehash that role in 2008. However, with Jones now leap-frogging him on the depth chart, his potential development as a ball-carrier just took a hit.

Looking ahead: Wolfe's roster spot may not be in jeopardy to the degree Peterson's is, as this organization has a history of falling in love with recent draft picks and protecting them to no end. That being said, how much longer can Wolfe earn his keep as a little-used running back and an upback in the kicking game? Perhaps general manager Jerry Angelo should simply admit his mistake and sever ties with the hometown hero – taking a sixth-round prospect in Round 3 is even more of a waste if you never give him a chance.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


Bear Report Top Stories