Bears

Matt Forte or Marshall Faulk? You make the call

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Matt Forte or Marshall Faulk? You make the call

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
9:45 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Outrageous.

That is how offensive coordinator Mike Martz described running back Matt Forte Wednesday. Coming from Martz, who coached outrageous in St. Louis when he had Marshall Faulk, that is seriously high praise even from someone who is given to effusive compliments.

Matt is just outrageous the way hes playing, Martz said. Hes been fantastic. I knew he was really a good player but right now hes been pretty special.

And it may not be too long before the comparisons start between Forte and Faulk, a Hall of Fame running back who was one of the most accomplished all-around backs of his or any era.

With a game to play, Forte has totaled more rushing yards (3,145) than Faulk did in his first three seasons (2,947). He has 163 pass receptions vs. Faulks 164. Faulk was producing his numbers in Indianapolis and didn't become a Martz project until his sixth NFL season (1999), at which time his numbers jumped dramatically in an offense with a spectrum of Pro Bowl players in every position group.

Can he be as good as Marshall Faulk? reflected coach Lovie Smith, who was on the St. Louis staff during Faulks prime. Smith hedged but didnt dismiss that possibility in any way. Aww, I mean, thats a little early. I just think right now we wouldnt trade Matt Forte for many guys. Hes not on that all-Pro team, but what running back has played better football than him as of late?

Smith sees the Faulk-Forte similarities:

To Smith, Forte is a complete running back. He is an every down back. He can run with power. He can make tacklers miss in the open field. He is an effective receiver out of the backfield or split out. He is a strong pass protector.

Of course, Marshall Faulk is a Hall of Famer, Smith said. Of course, he did all that as well as anyone. Matt can do all those things also.

The matchups with him when he is moved outside as a receiver, as happened against the New York Jets and Forte responded with a 24-yard pass reception against a linebacker, you cant get the ball out there to him fast enough, Martz said. I think people when they watch him on film, know hes fast, but when you see him in person run, he has unusual speed and hes a big guy. I think that does surprise people, particularly when he comes out of the backfield. His kind of speed does shock some of those linebackers.
Classy

Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who was a bust in San Francisco, Washington and Chicago but now is going to the Pro Bowl as a Denver Bronco, trashed his former teams with a terse Fk you to those teams, and I mean that in a most professional way.

Lloyd never had more than 48 catches in a season while a 49er, refused to play as a Bear unless he was 100 percent and wound up with 26 catches, and hes criticizing teams for not getting the most out of his talent. Perfect. A man for the millennium.

Sick bay

Receiver Earl Bennett (ankle), center Olin Kreutz (rest) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) were held out of practice Wednesday but expected to be more than ready for Sunday in Green Bay.

The Packers were not nearly, looking every bit like the typical NFL team going into game 16. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf), guard Marshall Newhouse (back) and linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) were unable to practice at all and safety Atari Bigby (groin) and fullback Korey Hall (knee).

Green Bay Pro Bowlers Chad Clifton (tackle, knees), Nick Collins (safety, ribs) and Clay Matthews (linebacker, shin) were limited in practice, as were cornerback Sam Shields (knees) and center Scott Wells (back).

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.