Despite starting all 16 games, Forte managed only 929 yards rushing, averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and scored one third the amount of touchdowns (4) as he did the season before (12). Much of the blame can be thrown at the feet of the offensive line, which failed to open holes on a consistent basis for its primary ball carrier, but Forte didn't look to have the burst he showed in 2008 and had trouble breaking tackles all year long. Kevin Jones got hurt in the final exhibition contest and spent the entire campaign on injured reserve, and while neither Garrett Wolfe nor Adrian Peterson got the job done backing up Forte, undrafted rookie free agent Kahlil Bell averaged 5.5 yards per carry – including a 72-yard explosion on his very first attempt – after being promoted off the practice squad in Week 11.
At fullback, Jason McKie wasn't given a carry all season and caught just five passes for 13 yards despite being the only player on the roster at his position.
Inside the Numbers
Although it was assumed the acquisition of Jay Cutler would keep the eighth defender out of the box and open up running lanes for Forte, that was not the case because opponents didn't respect the Chicago passing attack and its lack of play-making receivers. The wideouts improved over the course of the schedule and will only get better come 2010, as will Cutler following an up-and-down performance his first year in a Bears uniform – the system, however, will be different since offensive coordinator Ron Turner was fired. Not only does the blocking up front need to get better if Forte wants to bounce back next year, but a difference-making fullback would be a quality addition since McKie isn't clearing a path in front of his tailback.
Coach Lovie Smith said in his season-ending press conference that he still wants to be balanced on offense and commit to the running game, but his plan might go up in smoke if the pass-happy Mike Martz is hired as the new offensive coordinator.
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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.
2009 Position by Position Review: RB
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