By Adam Hoge-
The third in a series of depth chart breakdowns leading up to the start of Bears training camp in Bourbonnais.
(CBS) When Matt Forte signed his four-year, $30.4 million extension with the Bears just before training camp a year ago, the team was expecting him to respond with a big season.
That didn’t exactly happen.
Forte had a solid year running the football, posting the most rushing yards (1,094) since his rookie year, but his role in the passing game dipped. Not all of that was his fault as Jay Cutler zeroed in on wide receiver Brandon Marshall too much and former offensive coordinator Mike Tice did a bad job of making Forte available to the quarterback.
The good news is that Forte continued to show explosiveness in the open field and there are high expectations this year for the way new head coach Marc Trestman plans on utilizing him.
Here’s a look at what should be a strong position for the Bears this season:
|1st Team||2nd Team||3rd Team||4th Team|
|RB||Matt Forte||Michael Bush||Armando Allen||Michael Ford|
|FB||Tony Fiammetta||Harvey Unga|
RB Matt Forte – Now in his sixth season, the 27-year-old back remains mostly durable.
FB Tony Fiammetta – The veteran replaces Evan Rodriguez, but the Bears could elect to go without a fullback.
RB Michael Bush – After playing with injuries last year, the Bears hope to get more out of Bush this season.
RB Armando Allen – The Notre Dame product proved to be effective last season.
RB Michael Ford – The undrafted free agent will compete with Allen for a roster spot.
RB Harvey Unga – Long shot to make the roster, having only been active in one game in three years.
Training Camp Outlook
The top two spots at running back are pretty much set and the Bears expect to get more out of both Forte and Bush this season. Trestman’s offense should suit Forte well, but that’s assuming the offensive line is better this year, which is no guarantee. Yes, the Bears want Forte involved in the passing game more, but they still need to establish the run. And that’s where Michael Bush comes in. Bush told the Chicago Tribune that he played with a broken bone in his shoulder last season and a rib injury essentially cost him the last three games. Despite five touchdowns, it was a disappointing debut for Bush in Chicago.
In Bourbonnais, it will be interesting to see how both Forte and Bush are utilized. Expect Forte to be a big part of the offense, but don’t be surprised if Bush’s carries increase too. The Bears gave him a four-year deal with nearly $7 million guaranteed, so they want to get more out of him. Some two-back sets can’t be ruled out.
Further down the depth chart, Allen and Ford are both intriguing. Allen showed flashes last season and can contribute on special teams. Ford, meanwhile, posted big Combine numbers but went undrafted. He can contribute on special teams as well and should push Allen hard for a roster spot.
The fullback position will be intriguing mainly because it’s possible the Bears won’t want a fullback at all. Evan Rodriguez likely would have been utilized because of his pass catching ability, but it’s not a position of necessity in Trestman’s offense. Fiammetta has eight catches in three NFL seasons, so he has done it before, but it’s probably not something the Bears are counting on. Unga, meanwhile, is still somehow hanging on to a job after being taken by the Bears in the 2010 supplemental draft. He has zero NFL carries and his first one probably won’t be coming in a Bears uniform this season.
Sleeper: Michael Ford. The undersized running back made a bad decision to leave LSU after his junior year and he ended up going undrafted. He has potential though with good speed and acceleration. He also happens to have experience as a kick returner, which could make things interesting with Devin Hester’s job in jeopardy.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.