New York Jets running back Matt Forte is nearing the end of his NFL career. How much can he help Gang Green moving forward?
Matt Forte realizes that time is starting to run out for him. He is 31 years old now, will be 32 in December and not many NFL running backs flourish at that advanced age. Father Time always wins. So what can the New York Jets expect from the Tulane University product as he enters his 10th season in the league?
It’s an interesting question. Forte is coming off one of the worst seasons of his stellar career with a career-worst 813 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry) and just 30 receptions for 263 yards, both career lows. The 6-2, 218-pounder can hear the footsteps behind him of fellow halfback Bilal Powell. Powell is three years younger than Forte and enjoyed the best campaign of his career in 2016 with New York. The 2017 season is shaping up as a running back by committee approach for both players with Forte no longer in the lead role.
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That won’t be easy for Forte to accept, but he realizes that he has much to prove moving forward. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee late last season to repair his medial meniscus and seems to be recovering nicely as training camp approaches. Forte knows he has to stay healthy to remain relevant in new coordinator John Morton’s offensive scheme.
Having Morton run the offense could be a big break for Forte. It was no secret he was not a fan of former coordinator Chan Gailey, who would rotate Forte and Powell based on what down it was rather than by offensive series. That made it difficult for Forte to get into the flow of the game as he told nj.com:
“Done by downs, it’s kind of weird,” Forte said. “Sometimes, running backs run off of rhythm. I know, sometimes, I’m sort of a rhythm guy. [Morton] is a smart guy. I think [the rotation] will go [with] whoever has got the hot hand.”
That makes all the sense in the world. Both Forte and Powell are excellent third down backs who excel at catching the ball out of the backfield. Forte is one of the best in league history and Powell grabbed 58 receptions in 2016. It’s a nice problem for Morton to have.
Even if Forte is 100 percent healthy when the Jets kick off their season on Sept. 10 in Buffalo, the torch appears to have been passed to Powell to be their lead back. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry (on 131 carries) last year and enjoyed the best overall season of his career. Expect Powell to receive about 60 percent of the rushing attempts moving forward, with Forte getting around 40 percent. Rookie Elijah McGuire will contribute as well, especially on third down. The Jets have the best trio of third down receiving backs in the NFL.
The key to Forte’s success is tied to health and opportunity. He has missed five games (three with the Chicago Bears) over the last two seasons and must prove he can perform effectively over a full schedule. Forte’s days of being a premier running back appear to be over but he can still be a very productive player if he can remain off the injury report.