Matt Forte finished the season – perhaps his last in Chicago – with 974 rushing yards with an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Bears tailbacks combined averaged a fraction under 4.0, with Forte both lead back for most of the year and mentor all of it.
“I’ve kind of let them know at an early stage of the road,” Forte said, “to learn from some of the mistakes I’ve made and some of the stuff that I’ve seen other guys do and learn from that too. I kind of let them know what to be heads-up for.”
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The focus through much of the season was Forte’s future, whether it will be in a Bears uniform or someone else’s. Forte made an eloquent closing argument with 76 yards in 17 rushes (4.5 ypc) along with three receptions for another 34 yards, the first time in four games that Forte has had more touches than rookie Jeremy Langford.
The Bears have wasted millions looking for a complement to Forte and appeared to find his successor in Langford, who flashed with more than 100 total yards in two starts after Forte was idled with a knee injury. Since then Langford has shown steady improvement, albeit with a couple of costly dropped passes that figured into Bears defeats.
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“I think he’s improved in the pass protection area for sure,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “His ability to run downhill, I was surprised at how aggressive he was. I know, coming from Michigan State, they did so many gap-scheme type plays, downhill plays, but until you get a guy in the building and you start working with pads, you don’t really understand how physical [he is].”
Ka’Deem Carey, who began training camp as a possible roster casualty because of a lackluster rookie season and few contributions on special teams, squeaked onto the roster and provided some spot duty complete with two rushing and a receiving touchdown.
Moon's RB Grade: B
Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley knew what to expect coming into the NFL thanks to his older brother Calvin, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver.
Their family bond kept them close even as they played for rival colleges and now competing professional teams, and they both take a lot of motivation from the name on the back of their jerseys.
The two receivers came together on camera for the Bears’ “Meet the Rookies” series.
“We do what we do, not just for the family, but for our name, our brand,” Riley Ridley said. “We want to take that as far as it can go. That Ridley name is strong, and that’s how we view it.”
Ridley opened up about growing up with his mother raising him and his three brothers. He said he’s going to be his own biggest critic and do everything he can to help his teammates.
His brother Calvin added some color to the image of Riley that’s starting to take shape.
“Very funny, really cool, laid back,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a different person on the field. I would say he has a lot of anger on the field — very physical.”
Matt Nagy should find good use for that physicality in the Bears offense, plugging Ridley in a wide receiver group already deep with young talent.
Ridley doesn’t seem like the type of player who will allow himself to get buried on the depth chart.
Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.
He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.
When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.
He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.
“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”
Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.
“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.
Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.
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