For yet another season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some in-depth actual football knowledge to sway some insight in our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer and check out each one on the “2012 Fantasy Football Team Previews” link. This installment comes courtesy of Steven Schweickert from The Windy City Gridiron:
1)The big news for fantasy surrounding the Bears is the extension given to Matt Forte, keeping him a Chicago Bear for four more years. With him signed and in camp ready to go, Forte becomes a top-10 running back, luckily avoiding missing too much time like Chris Johnson did last year (and we all saw badly that went). Do you see his role about the same as it was last year, or will the Bears attempt to somewhat limit his touches with Michael Bush able to handle some of the load?
Forte is what Forte is – a yardage back and a very good PPR back. Bush’s arrival won’t really be much of an impact on Forte’s carries, the Bears have tried in two prior seasons to get him a touchdown-vulture (Chester Taylor and Marion Barber). If anything, it’ll fall about the same pattern of RB usage that the Bears have employed the past two seasons; Forte gets pretty much everything but goal-line, with Bush handling the goal-line and short-yardage duties. Forte’s load will scale down slightly with Bush’s presence, but a more significant dropoff might come from the impact of the new tools in the passing game.
2) The arrival of Brandon Marshall teaming up again with Jay Cutler has many fantasy owners giddy with excitement. What are you hearing about the Bears trying to spread the field and do you see Marshall being used as heavily as he was with the Broncos when he previously played with Cutler?
Well, Marshall’s the number one, and even with whatever Miami picked up off South Beach on a Saturday night playing at quarterback, still put up damn good numbers. I can’t really see that decreasing with Cutler – he’s shown that once in a while he can get attached to a receiver. That being said, after Marshall it’s kind of nebulous like you mention. Knox isn’t a guarantee to start the year on the active roster, currently being placed on the PUP list. You’d think Earl Bennett might step in there, but every chance he has gotten, something derails it, whether it be injury or Caleb Hanie. Alshon Jeffery’s of course going to be a hot name, and could step into that role, but we’ll have to see how he develops in the early going. With the addition of Marshall, the Bears at least have a more complete receiving corps, and Jeffery could eventually be the #2 late this season with an eye on the #1 role when Marshall’s contract is up. And Knox could still come back late in the year if he doesn’t get IR’d by week six.
Bottom line in my opinion, Marshall will be the lead weapon this season. He was Cutler’s guy in Denver, he was Miami’s guy no matter who was quarterbacking, can’t see him not being Cutler’s guy again.
3) No one was happier than Jay Cutler when Marshall was brought back into his receiving corps. Do you think Cutler will again flourish with a big #1 receiver and do you see him topping 4,000 yards?
If there’s a year for Cutler to thrive, well, this is it, right? He’s got his big Denver weapon, he got another weapon in Jeffery, his QB coach is back in the fold… He got everything he could have wanted this year except offensive linemen (well, barring Chilo Rachal) and even that has numerous schematic and developmental reasons why it might not be so bad in the Post-Mike Martz era (plus, quarterbacks can and do produce even when they have turnstile offensive linemen). Four-grand should be in reach, but since he has only reached that number once (2008, 4500+, with Marshall), I’ll hesitate on saying it’s a certainty.
4) For years fantasy owners have been hoping the magic Devin Hester brings on the special teams side would translate into big offensive stats, but it hasn’t happened yet. With an unclear picture of who will be the number two receiver, do you expect Hester to take a step forward offensively, or will Earl Bennett garner more looks?
I’d say Bennett has the inside track. Hester’s been and will probably continue to be a gimmick-type receiver and probably a three or four on the depth chart depending on Jeffery’s development, and probably not much of a fantasy aspect unless your league counts individual return yards and touchdowns, but there’s nothing saying he can’t be a productive receiver especially in YAC and deep ball situations – in 2009 he had 57/757/3, which isn’t the line of an incapable receiver. Bennett though is a bit of an enigma. I know some of our members think the world of Bennett, but he’s had a hard time staying (or getting) on the field the last two seasons, and when he is on the field, last year was rough (five games with one reception). But then he has his 5 rec, 95 yard or 6 rec, 81 yard games. His sophomore campaign of 54/717/2 is closer to what he could be, but it’s a question whether he can get back there.
Of the pair though, it’ll probably be Bennett, simply because of the Hester-as-a-returner bit, and they’ll want to retain the bulk of his snaps for punt returns – plus, Bennett got new paper in December.
5) The Bears didn’t have any standout receiving performances for the season last year, and especially got very little out of the Tight End position. Does the Bears’ offensive scheme not include much for the Tight End, and do you see that changing this year with maybe Kellen Davis having a nice offensive contribution?
No, they really didn’t – Bears receivers as a whole weren’t exactly desirable, particularly when Dane Sanzenbacher leads your receivers in touchdown receptions and is a long-shot to make the team this season. As far as the tight end position goes, however, there’s a different thing here. Part of Mike Martz’s offense was the lack of usage of tight ends in the passing game, and yet Kellen Davis led the team in touchdown receptions with five. He’ll probably get more looks in the passing game between the 20s this season, and with the Bears spending a fourth-round pick on Evan Rodriguez, I’d expect the tight ends to get more use overall. With all the “size” guys the Bears added (such as Marshall and Jeffery), there’s no shortage of red-zone options, so I’m not sure if Davis can exceed his five touchdowns.
Steven Schweickert has been writing for The Windy City Gridiron since February 2011 as a weekend contributor and can be found there on the front page Wednesday nights at 9 PM CT, all across the weekend, and on Monday mornings after games with detailed recaps and items of note – during the football season I also provide previews on my Wednesday slots of the week’s opponent. I can be found on Twitter at @SJS_illini and on WCG’s official Twitter handle @Official_WCG.