Matt Forte is expecting better things in his second season with the Jets.
The veteran running back seems rejuvenated by the hiring of John Morton to be the team’s new offensive coordinator.
“It’s going to be good,” Forte said this week. “I’ve been in the West Coast offense before, many a time. … I love it because it’s designed [for] a running [for]who can cat[for]e ball out of the backfield as well and be versatile out there.”
Forte told NJ.com last week he thought it was “odd, to say the least” how he was used last year by former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Forte came off the field on most third downs, replaced by Bilal Powell. He also was not used that much as a receiver out of the backfield. He had a career-low 30 catches on 43 targets (also a career low). This, after he had 102 catches with the Bears in 2014.
“Last year I don’t think I even played really on third downs, which was, like I said, odd,” Forte said. “A guy who catches the ball should be involved in the offense from the receiving side of it.”
Despite his confusion about how he was used, Forte made it clear he was not upset with Gailey last year.
“No. That’s the offensive coordinator’s job is to use players like he wants to use them,” Forte said. “So I’m not the coordinator, I don’t make those decisions, and last year is last year.”
When the Jets signed Forte last year as a free agent, the expectation was the team would use him as a weapon in the passing game. That never really developed. He had a decent season in his first year with the Jets, but below the production he was used to. Forte rushed the ball 218 times for 813 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown. Forte’s season ended after 14 games because of a knee injury that required surgery.
Healthy again, the 31-year-old has liked what he has seen from Morton’s offense so far.
“I think it’ll be different from last year,” Forte said, “where I’ll be used on third down and even a two-back system, where me and Bilal — he can obviously catch the ball, too — will be out there on the field at the same time and just change it up personnel-wise where we’re getting the best matchups out there.”
Coach Todd Bowles was not ready to jump on board with any predictions of an increased role for Forte in the passing game.
“It’s too early to tell,” Bowles said. “If we’re running the ball fine, we’re going to run it more. If they’re stopping the run, we’re going to have to pass. In this offense, our backs get a little more involved in the passing game and they spread out a little more. Obviously, if he gets more touches and they don’t double him, yes.”
One of the most interesting schematic questions facing the Jets is how they deploy Forte and Powell, who had a strong finish to last season. Is it a 50/50 split? Does Powell take more of a lead back role?
Those decisions face the Jets in the upcoming months. For now, Forte is just excited to be in this new offense.
“Johnny Mo knows exactly what he’s doing out there,” Forte said. “He’s a very intelligent coordinator. So I know he’s going to put us in good positions to make the plays because you can have the most talented team you want to, but if guys don’t get put in the right position to make plays and do what they do best out there on the field, we’re not going to score a lot of points. But I think he can do that for us.”