Bears

2013 Most Important Bears: No. 6 Matt Forte

Matt Forte.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Matt Forte. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

A panel of 14 Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 players in terms of how important they will be in determining the success or failure of the 2013 Chicago Bears. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will unveil one of the 10 most important Bears each weekday as we countdown to training camp.

(CBS) There has been a lot of talk about Matt Forte’s production falling off last season. Some of it is fair and some of it is not.

While Forte’s receiving numbers certainly dropped (he had 52 catches in just 12 games in 2011 and only 44 catches in 15 games last year), he was still pretty productive in the running game, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and posting the second highest rushing total in his career (1,094 yards). That should be good news for Bears fans who are worried about a continued drop in production following the contract extension he signed last summer.

Forte’s rushing numbers indicate he’s still pretty durable at age 27 and show that his struggles in the passing game last year were mostly a byproduct of a poor offense.

And that’s where Marc Trestman comes in.

The new Bears head coach is expected to make Forte a focal part of the offense and should find new, creative ways to get him in the open field with the ball. If he’s successful in doing so, there’s a good chance Forte is primed to set career highs in most categories during what could be a Pro Bowl season.

Of course, that kind of success is contingent on both the offensive line playing at a high level and Forte staying healthy. It’s one thing to say Forte appears to be durable, but he’s still entering his sixth NFL season and that’s always the point where you start to worry about a running back. That said, the previous regime did a good job of saving Forte’s legs and the injuries that caused him to miss five games in the last two seasons were not all that serious.

Pretty much everything on the offense goes back to the offensive line, but if that unit elevates his game, Forte should post big numbers in 2013 and greatly increase the Bears’ chances of making the playoffs.

Miss who we’ve unveiled so far? Catch up here.

The 10 Most Important Bears Panel: Dan Hampton, Hub Arkush, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Nick Shepkowski, Herb Lawrence, Joe Ostrowski, Chris Tannehill, Adam Harris and Dan Durkin.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.