(MCT) The first big signing general manager Phil Emery made for the Bears was giving Matt Forte $30.4 million, 4-year contract.
That deal came at the deadline last July, securing the former second-round draft pick through the 2015 season. Then, Emery wondered what happened to his investment when he didn't see the same production in 2012.
"I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver," Emery said in January. "For whatever reason, whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn't utilize Matt, or he didn't have the opportunity to be fully utilized."
Look for that to immediately change in the offense of new coach Marc Trestman.
Forte still caught 44 passes – the second-most on the roster – but he averaged only 7.7 yards per catch, his lowest figure since 7.6 as a rookie in 2008.
It's easy to say quarterback Jay Cutler zeroing in on receiver Brandon Marshall had something to do with it. Marshall was targeted 194 times (12.1 per game), tied for second-most in the NFL with the Colts' Reggie Wayne behind only the Lions' Calvin Johnson (205, 12.8).
"We were kind of one-dimensional last year, I would say," Forte said. "It's going to be an emphasis for us this year to spread the ball around, so it's balanced and the defense can't just focus on one guy or one position."
Trestman has past success using a multi-dimensional running back, most notably Charlie Garner with the Raiders. Garner averaged 118.9 yards offense per game in 2002, fifth among all backs that season. He rushed for 962 yards (5.3 per carry) and caught 91 passes for 941 yards (10.3 per catch).
Forte figures to be a bigger threat on the ground, and while he might not have that many catches, it's easy to forecast him with more than the career-high 63 he had as a rookie.
"I expect [the offense] to be balanced," Forte said. "Establish the run first and then get into the passing game. There are a lot of routes that the running back has. The ball's going to be spread around pretty well. Coach Trestman watched a lot of film on me and has seen me run different routes. So we'll get back to catching the ball out of the backfield like we did years before."
There is a major focus on the passing game, and Forte fulfills the first significant requirement – he's solid in pass protection. He also runs routes well and has good hands.
What is going to be interesting to see is how the workload is divided. Michael Bush played most of last season with a fractured bone in his right shoulder. It's easy to figure that hindered him in carrying 114 times for 411 yards with a 3.6 average in 13 games. He and Forte each had five rushing touchdowns.