- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Everyone is assuming that the pressure will be firmly on Jay Cutler in Chicago's offense. While that is true, Matt Forte deserves to be under the microscope as well. Yes, this figures to be a prominent passing offense, but Forte is at a critical crossroads of his young career, and no matter how much Mike Martz wants to throw, the facts are that playing in the elements of Chicago lends itself to having the need for some sort of ground attack.
Forte played much of last year with hamstring and knee injuries. But even at his best over his two-year career, this isn't a running back who overwhelms you with his physical ability. He does everything well but isn't exceptional in any area. He lacks a wow factor to his running style and is not creative. He needs to be a volume runner and needs his surroundings to be strong for him to succeed.
As a receiver, Forte should endear himself to Martz quickly, but it still could be argued as to who is the better back in this capacity between Forte and Chester Taylor. Both are effective receivers, but neither is a Marshall Faulk or Reggie Bush type of weapon, either. Not to take anything away from his receiving ability, but Forte isn't going to run a full complement of wide receiver-type routes. He isn't going to simply run past a cover man on a go route. Can Forte detach from the formation and consistently beat linebacker coverage over the top? Probably not, but he is sure-handed and certainly can be effective as a dump-off option and on designed routes out of the backfield. As a pass-catcher, I see someone who is effective, but not dynamic.
Does that really separate what Forte offers from what Taylor can do on the field? To me, that difference is minimal. Plus, Taylor is the player who was handpicked by Martz.
Forte has only two 100-yard games in his past 21, and both were against the Lions. He has yet to even average four yards per carry for a season. While the offensive line deserves blame too, Forte was a terrible short-yardage ball carrier last season. He also had a real fumbling problem in 2009.
The offensive line looks to be improved this year, and it will be more difficult to dedicate defenders near the line of scrimmage against this heavy passing attack. And surely Forte will begin the season with better health than last year. But in the end, I just really have my doubts about Forte being a real difference-maker.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
1dEric D. Williams