The Monsters of the Midway featured a 53-man roster chock full of disappointments in 2009, but perhaps no player was more disappointing than running back Matt Forte.
Coming off a sensational rookie season when he single-handedly carried a mediocre offense on the ground and also led the league in receptions by a back, Forte was stymied to the tune of 929 yards rushing, 3.6 yards per carry and scored only four touchdowns – he posted 1,238, 3.9 and 12 the year before. Clearly not the player he was his initial campaign, it was recently discovered that the former Tulane Green Wave battled through a sprained left knee suffered all the way back in Week 3 and had the same knee scoped within two weeks of the finale Jan. 3. Healthy or not, Forte has been less than effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations from the moment he arrived in the Windy City.
Kevin Jones is another injury waiting to happen, Garrett Wolfe can only help on special teams, Adrian Peterson has limited skills and Kahlil Bell was an undrafted free agent just nine months ago, so general manager Jerry Angelo could very well be on the lookout for another ball carrier to complement Forte.
Scout.com has confirmed that Wayne State running back Joique Bell had a meeting with the Bears after Monday's practice at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Bell has dominated the Division-II level with the Warriors, rushing for 1,208 yards on 5.3 yards per carry and scoring 12 touchdowns in 2008, and then this past season he led all of college football in per-game rushing yards (189.5), scoring (17.5) and all-purpose yards (217.5). For his efforts, Bell won the 2009 Harlon Hill Trophy, named after the former Bears receiver and given to the top Division-II player in the country. He may not be much of a long-distance threat and isn't going to impress scouts with his 40-yard dash time in the mid-4.5s, but Bell is a punishing runner that racks up yardage after contact.
The 5-11, 224-pound Bell is currently Scout.com's No. 8 running back heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.
JC's Take: Smart Bears fans knew Forte was never going to be special in the way Minnesota's Adrian Peterson or Tennessee's Chris Johnson are special, but it was still shocking to see one of the best running-and-receiving combo backs in the league look so ordinary one year after looking so extraordinary.
Putting Jay Cutler under center was supposed to keep the eighth defender out of the box and open running lanes left and right, but that simply didn't happen and Forte never once hit his stride. The offensive line deserves a good amount of the blame, as does former coordinator Ron Turner for not being overly imaginative with his ground game, but Forte can't seem to make tacklers miss and wasn't falling forward for that extra yard or two, like he did the year before. Losing Jones in the preseason was a killer because he was supposed to help pick up those tough yards on third-and-short and fourth-and-short, something Forte has never done well.
Early word out of Mobile is that Bell is running awfully hard and earning the respect of premier prospects like Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, so keep an eye on him come draft weekend.
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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.
Prospect Watch: Senior Bowl RB
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