Matt Forte could be set for big year with coordinator Adam Gase

SHARE Matt Forte could be set for big year with coordinator Adam Gase

Matt Forte’s first impression of new Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Gase’s plans for him was a same-old feel.

‘‘We talked about that type of stuff when he first got hired — same as I always [have] been utilized in the running game and the passing game,’’ Forte said during team activities this past week at Halas Hall.

If that’s the case, then Forte is looking at plenty of opportunities to produce in what will be contract year for him, barring unforeseen developments.

But it’s May, and Gase’s offense is in its infancy. Since coach John Fox was hired, he often has expressed his preference for having a ‘‘wave’’ of backs.

‘‘[Forte’s] role will define itself as we get going,’’ Gase said earlier this month. ‘‘We’re still evolving right now.’’

But Gase knows Forte is unique. In his two years in charge of the Denver Broncos’ offense, he didn’t have a running back with Forte’s productivity, durability or stamina. Forte’s success has transcended Bears coordinators; he has reached 1,400 yards from scrimmage in all seven of his seasons.

Forte is a modern-day bell-cow running back. He won’t pound opponents through 30 carries, but he’ll attack you via 30 touches. Former Bears coach Marc Trestman recognized that ability and spoke glowingly about it. Consequently, Forte rarely left the field — for better or worse — in Trestman’s two-year run, and his production has increased with age. He was on for more than 92 percent of the Bears’ offensive plays last season. In the last two years, Forte has accounted for an astounding 731 touches. That’s more than DeMarco Murray (719), LeSean McCoy (706) and Marshawn Lynch (654).

‘‘This is an unusual situation just because Matt has been in such great shape and has been so dynamic as far as staying on the field,’’ Gase said. ‘‘We’ve just got to see how it plays out. In Denver, [running back] C.J. [Anderson] would hate me for saying this, but he got tired and was a little chubby sometimes. I mean, he got worn down quick, and then we had to rotate backs in last year. Matt’s an unusual situation in that position because he’s able to play every play, or has.’’

Fox’s teams always seem to be looking for more in the backfield. In Carolina, Fox had DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis and later paired Jonathan Stewart with DeAngelo Williams. In Denver, he drafted Montee Ball in the second round despite having Knowshon Moreno.

The Bears did the same this offseason. They signed free agent Jacquizz Rodgers to a one-year deal and drafted Jeremy Langford in the fourth round to go with Forte, Ka’Deem Carey and Senorise Perry.

‘‘We’ve always been believers in kind of a 1-2 punch,’’ Fox said earlier this month. ‘‘But as I tell guys, they pick the team [through] how they perform, and it will be no different at running back, who that guy is and how dependable he is and if he earns that number of reps to get in. We’re early in the process, and hopefully somebody kind of sets themselves out.’’

It has happened before in standout fashion under Fox. His teams have produced six 1,000-yard rushers in his 13 previous seasons as a head coach. Williams had the best campaign in 2008, running for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Panthers. In 2009, Williams and Stewart each surpassed 1,000 rushing yards.

Still, it’s Gase’s offense. He’s the rising star — the guru considered head-coach material. Fox may have his preferences, but Gase has the headset and play sheet. He’s eager to work with quarterback Jay Cutler and also Forte. Even Fox has referred to Forte’s ability to handle workloads as a positive.

‘‘[I’ll play] as long as God allows me to play football and I keep my body healthy,” said Forte, who turns 30 in December. ‘‘I’m out here at OTAs and I don’t have any injuries — I’m not nursing anything like that. I’m pretty much healthy. I feel like I can continue to play as long as I want to.’’

He may not have the contract he wants at the moment, but he seems to still like his situation.

‘‘Love Adam Gase,’’ he said. ‘‘First impression is he’s got a lot of energy. He’s going to be good not only for this offense, but being able to coach Jay as well.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns

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