AL HAMNIK: Matt Forte ready to blast off with Bears' new offense

2013-09-07T17:45:00Z 2013-09-09T23:41:13Z AL HAMNIK: Matt Forte ready to blast off with Bears' new offenseAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
September 07, 2013 5:45 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST | You don't hire a handyman to change light bulbs and pay him $40 an hour.

Matt Forte would agree. He's as versatile as a Swiss army knife but was the victim of predictable play calling last season with bumbling Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler's new toy, accounted for 46 percent of the offense with his 118 receptions for 1,508 yards.

Forte would rip off long runs, then be ignored in the red zone in favor of backup Michael Bush or the golden-toed Robbie Gould.

New coach Marc Trestman has vowed to change that imbalance by restocking the Bears' arsenal and giving Cutler more weapons than a state militia.

That includes using Forte to the fullest.

"We think Matt is a perfect fit in this (West Coast) offense because not only is he good in the running game, he can catch the ball, he can pass protect and he can split out and play wide receiver," said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.

"Matt gives us a lot of options."

At training camp in Bourbonnais, there was talk Forte could become the first running back in several years to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes. Nobody laughed it off or shook their heads in doubt.

Read his rap sheet.

From 2008-11, Forte became the first player in league history to run for at least 900 yards and compile 400 yards in receptions.

But then Tice butted in and the streak ended as Forte ran for 1,094 yards and caught 44 passes for 340 yards -- both career lows -- while every drive seemed to be centered around Marshall.

"I didn't really run a lot of pass routes last year," Forte said. "I only lined up as a receiver a few times, so I really didn't get out of the backfield much."

That will change. It has to for the Bears to be successful this season and their playoff slump.

Versatility is key to the roster assembled by Trestman and general manager Phil Emery, who want multi-talented players on the field each week.

Forte certainly is that, if the reins are loosened.

He is one of three players in team history with 5,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards, joining -- you guessed it -- Walter Payton and Neal Anderson.

This could be a primo season for No. 22 and if anyone can make it happen, it's Trestman, who was offensive coordinator in Oakland when running back Charlie Garner snagged 91 passes for 941 yards in 2002.

"We should see Matt in a lot of different spots, hopefully, if we're clicking," Cutler said.

Forte carried only 15 times in the preseason for a 9.9 average to go along with a 32-yard reception. The Bears were simply resting him.

The match will be struck in today's opener with the Bengals as Trestman lights the fuse to his new and improved offense.

Forte is all smiles and ready to blast off.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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