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
Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21.
Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.
All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.
The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players.
The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.
The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.
Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons.
Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.
CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.
The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.
It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.
We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.