On the NFL
May 15, 2013
Matt Forte still looks big, smooth and fast. But in organized team activities, he looks a different kind of big, smooth and fast.
That's because he is being used in more ways than he has been the last couple of seasons. It's part of the Bears' new vision to make Forte more valuable to the offense.
In the early going, we're seeing a lot of outside zone runs. It's probably no coincidence that is what is being worked on first.
Based on what we're hearing, we also will be seeing more gap plays and tosses than we have in the past.
All that still is working itself out. Coach Marc Trestman's playbook seems to have as many runs in it as there are Smiths in the phone book.
"Trap schemes, gap schemes, zone schemes, man schemes — all that," Forte said.
What kinds of schemes are deployed most in the fall will depend on the constitution and strengths and weaknesses of the still evolving offensive line.
"Matt has the ability to run in a number of different schemes," Trestman said. "We're in the process of trying to filter through and put this offensive line together. As we get into the training camp and figure out more who we are, it will take more form. Are we better off pulling with both guards or one guard? Are we going to be a stretch team? Inside zone team? A lot will depend on how we line up these five (offensive linemen)."
Forte's versatility means he can fit in almost any scheme, and the Bears want to use him more effectively than he was last season when he had the second lowest total of all-purpose yards of his career.
One easy way to get him more yards will be to throw him more passes. The 60 tossed his way last season were the second lowest total in his career.
"I went back and watched him in 2010," Trestman said. "He had a lot of catches from different positions, on the line of scrimmage, from the backfield."
Forte subsequently is learning new positions. He said he is studying to play H-Back as well as "F," which also is called the "move" tight end. And he is preparing to be split out as a receiver. The Bears coaches know Forte in space is a good thing.
Part of this is about restoring some equilibrium to the passing game. Last season Brandon Marshall caught 41 percent of the Bears' completions. Forte caught 15 percent, and no other player caught more than 10 percent.
"We were kind of one-dimensional last year," Forte said. "It's going to be an emphasis for us this year, I guess, to spread the ball around so the defense can't just focus on one guy or one position."
Forte, obviously, thinks this could be a better system for him.
"I like it a lot," he said. "Just to see the pass offense like in Oakland when Charlie Garner had like 90 receptions. This offense (has the potential) to be explosive in the running game as well as in the passing game."
In 2002, when Trestman was the Raiders' offensive coordinator and Aaron Kromer the offensive line coach, Garner caught 91 passes for 941 yards, and had 1,903 all purpose yards.
If Forte were to put up those kinds of numbers, he would be quite valuable. But Trestman still would expect something else of him: pass protection.
It is another area of Forte's game that can improve.
"We want him to be a complete back, and he has the ability to do that," Trestman said. "That's going to be part of his tool box of things we want him to do well. All of the great backs generally have been great pass protectors as well. They made it part of their arsenal."
Quarterback protection has been a major emphasis early in the offseason, and doing the grunt work is fine with Forte.
"I like this offense," he said. "I'm pretty excited."
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