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Durkin's Bears Positional Breakdown -- Running Back

By Dan Durkin-

Editor's note: This is the eighth part in a series that takes an all-encompassing look at the state of the Bears' roster. Click here to read breakdowns of the other positions.

(CBS) When discussing the Bears' running back situation, the focus quickly zooms in on the versatile and durable Matt Forte, who was either the ball-carrier or pass receiver on 49 percent of the team's offensive plays last season.

Three years ago, the Bears applied the franchise tag on Forte, which he refused to sign. Given the disposable nature of running back position, where the job description is to essentially endure 20-plus car crashes per Sunday, the strife was easy to understand from both perspectives. Forte wanted more long-term security given the toll the position takes on his body. The front office was willing to pay top-dollar for one year of high productivity, but it also wanted a hedge in the event of injury.

In the end, the two sides came to an agreement on a four-year, $30-million extension with $17 million guaranteed, $13.8 million of which was fully guaranteed for injury. Given that Forte has played in 47 of 48 possible games and has averaged 110 scrimmage yards per game, he's clearly given the Bears maximum return on their investment.

This fall, Forte is heading into the final year of the deal in which he will earn $9.2 million. At 29, the numbers suggest a precipitous drop-off in production, but Forte has been an anomaly along that trend line. Forte is renowned for his training regimen both in the offseason and regular season, which keeps him in top shape as a true three-down back.

Last season, the coaching staff began to give Forte regular rest on Wednesdays to allow more time to heal and let his legs rest for the upcoming week. During one of his weekly press conferences, Forte went into detail about the great lengths he goes to in order to keep his body right.

"During the season I see a physical therapist twice a week and a massage therapist," Forte said. "It's kind of like right after the game, that 48-hour period, and closer to the game, on Saturday or Sunday, that I see them. Just make sure everything's in line and stuff. Like I've said before, different techniques, stuff called Graston and dry needling, that helps me out."

Forte makes for an interesting evaluation for the new regime. General manager Ryan Pace came from a situation in New Orleans where the team used a stable of running backs with various styles for different personnel groupings and packages. In coach John Fox's latest stop in Denver, the Broncos had two running backs with more than 100 carries (C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman) and it easily could've been three had Montee Ball (the team's second-round pick in 2013) not suffered a serious groin injury.

The Bears used a fourth-round selection on Arizona's KaDeem Carey last season, but he was rarely utilized on game day. In fact, Forte's 102 receptions, which set a new NFL single-season record for running backs, eclipsed Carey's total snaps (100). Thus, the Bears don't have a full evaluation of what Carey offers the team.

The Broncos utilized a variety of running back screens and zone runs last season, which is an ideal fit for Forte, who is a one-cut runner with excellent vision in the hole. However, as the season progressed, the Broncos shifted to more of a power running game, which utilized a lot of runs in between the tackles, which isn't Forte's strength.

Recent history shows that running backs can be found later in the draft. Only one of the running backs who finished last season in the top 10 in rushing yards (Seattle's Marshawn Lynch) was drafted in the first round. In Lynch's case, he was drafted by the Bills and acquired by the Seahawks for a fourth-round pick.

Clearly, rebuilding the defense will be the primary focus for the Bears this offseason, but they must determine how they foresee Forte fitting into their future plans and must add a speed and power element to the group.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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