Watching the Bears-Falcons game on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but think how the addition of Jay Cutler in Chicago has hurt the stock of Matt Forte this season.
Admittedly, I thought the opposite would be true. How could it not? Having a quarterback like Cutler drawing defensive attention could do nothing but help Forte, right? Sure, Kyle Orton is a nice quarterback. But he’s not the threat Cutler is in the pass attack.
Defenses won’t have to worry about Orton like they’ll have to worry about Cutler.
But now that we’re six weeks into the season, it’s pretty apparent that Forte is no longer the centerpiece of the Bears offense. That role now belongs to Cutler, and the numbers show it.
After five games, Forte is averaging 17.2 carries a week. Last season, Forte averaged 21.4 carries in his first five games. Based on his current totals, he’ll finish with around 20 fewer carries compared to his rookie totals.
That’s not a huge decrease, but featured backs should still be seeing at least 20 carries a game.
Looking at Cutler’s numbers, he’s on pace to throw the football 550 times. That’s a ton of attempts in an offense that’s been based on the run forever. Orton was on pace for just 496 pass attempts after five games last season.
The Bears are clearly throwing it more, which is a concern, but their offensive line hasn’t been able to help Forte much, either. He was caught in the backfield several times and had little room to roam when coordinator Ron Turner gave him the football.
On a positive note, Forte is still on pace to catch 58 passes (he had 63 as a rookie). That helps his value in PPR formats.
But looking ahead at the schedule, it seems like a drastic improvement in statistical success could be difficult. Forte faces the rushing defenses of the Bengals (11th), Cardinals (1st), 49ers (7th), Vikings twice (9th) and Ravens (8th) in six of his next 10 games.
All of those teams are currently in the top 11 in run defense.
The best course of action right now is to see what sort of value Forte still has in seasonal formats. It might actually be best to attempt to trade him after Week 8, when he should post solid numbers against the Browns and their 30th-ranked run defense.
One thing is for sure — the presence of Cutler has done more harm than good for Forte.