Watching the Bears defeat the Vikings on Monday night, I got a chance to watch the further deterioration of Matt Forté from “star rookie” to something less than pedestrian.
This season he has had one 100 yard rushing day (versus the horrid Lions) and six, count’em six, efforts where he couldn’t break 34 yards. Forté had 22 touches for 67 yards versus the Packers: could not get outside, could not break tackles, totally could not get open (one catch). He has one carry of over 17 yards in 242 attempts! That is emblematic of a guy who has lost a step.
I’ve always had sort of a complex relationship with Forté. Aside from his marvelous senior campaign (and it was a total marvel, a genuine Heisman candidate), he was frankly a pretty jejune C-USA skill player. Clearly, when healthy and motivated, Forte is marvelously quick. He isn’t particularly a strong runner; he isn't in the NFL to knock people over. But he could be fast to the hole or perimeter. Defenders can’t congregate- and worse for them, Matt can make people miss. A lot of C-USA and NFL players can get away from defenders outside the tackles- but Matt could do it inside, in traffic, as well. This made him a dual inside/outside threat, a guy who did not need a whole lot of blocking, a guy who could run away from trouble and get a second option on a stuffed play.
But he isn’t completely healthy much (like his first three years at Tulane)- and he isn’t a player who plays well “hurt”. It isn’t a courage thing- but more that a strong-on-his-feet back can be half-a-tick slow, but still carry people. That isn’t Matt.
I wonder if Matt is done? He had a crazy workload as a rookie- and Toledo did not exactly protect his future earning potential at Tulane with the workload he assigned a player with such an obvious “career carry meter”. Even we know the NFL running back only has so many hits in him. Based on his checkered undergrad career, Forté figured to have fewer quality touches than most. I’m not exactly sure Toledo had his pro career in mind with the extreme total load Forté carried. Matt may have left two good NFL years on the field his last year in New Orleans.