Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is running back Matt Forte.
Matt Forte is a 31 year old, 6' 1", 222 pound running back out of Tulane University. At Tulane Forte rushed for more than 2100 yards as a senior and was named the MVP of the Senior Bowl. After his star turn in college Forte was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 44th overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL draft.
Forte made an immediate impact with the Bears, finishing his rookie season with 1715 yards from scrimmage, good for third best in the NFL. That would begin a string of seven straight seasons in which Forte racked up 1400 or more yards from scrimmage. Forte has been a remarkably productive back for a long time in the NFL. That long term productivity has him climbing the all time NFL charts, with Forte currently ranked in the top 35 all time in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and yards from scrimmage.
The heavy workload has taken its toll on Forte’s body, and he has become increasingly injury prone in recent years, with 2014 the last year he played in more than 13 games in a season. His speed has also been compromised. Forte entered the NFL with 4.44 speed in the 40 yard dash, an outstanding number for a running back his size, but nobody watching him play this year would call him a speedster.
On March 9, 2016 Matt Forte became an unrestricted free agent, and he was signed the same day to a three year contract by the New York Jets. His first year with the Jets Forte was the lead back, playing a workhorse role until his body broke down towards the end of the season. In 2017 Forte has slotted into a more or less equal time share with Bilal Powell, with Elijah McGuire taking a lesser role as the third back in the Jets running back by committtee approach. Forte heads the Jets backs in the passing game, leading all Jets backs in targets, receptions and receiving yards. It is this role as the Jets top receiving back that makes him especially important in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Weather conditions are expected to be terrible at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, with high winds and heavy rains making the deep passing game extremely difficult. That puts the short passing game at a premium, and makes Matt Forte potentially the most important player on offense for the Jets this week.
Matt Forte can still do some things in the running game, and with a wet sloppy field Forte’s speed disadvantage will be neutralized, and his patient, crafty style will be at a premium. Forte is also an excellent route runner with good hands. He is very good at effectively executing screen passes and is excellent as an outlet out of the backfield. If ever there was a game suited to those particular skills, this game is it.
If Matt Forte and his backfield running mates can lead a dominating Jets ground attack and an efficient short passing game against the Falcons, the Jets should be in position late in the game to steal a victory over the defending NFC champions. Matt Forte, this is your time in the spotlight with the Jets. This is your chance to show you’re not quite done yet. Let’s see what you’ve got left.