Matt Forte was signed to be the Jets’ workhorse. And he is being used as such.
“As long as he’s healthy, we’re not going to hold him back,” coach Todd Bowles said on a Friday conference call.
Forte, who turns 31 in December, is on pace for 472 touches this season. Meanwhile, No. 2 running back Bilal Powell has five carries and three catches in two games.
There “could be some fluctuation here and there” as it relates to Forte’s use, Bowles said, but it depends on the coaching staff’s game plan each week. “There may be games we throw more. There may be games we run a little more. We’ll see how he’s feeling. We’ll try to monitor it going forward.”
Forte’s versatility is his greatest strength, evidenced by his 52 rushes for 196 yards and seven receptions for 68 yards in two games in a five-day span. But the heavy workload hasn’t slowed him.
Behind his three touchdowns and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 374 passing yards, the Jets staved off the Bills, 37-31, Thursday night at New Era Field.
“We kind of found our identity a little bit, just how resilient we are as a team,” Forte said after the win. “ . . . When stuff goes bad, coach Bowles always says come back and punch them in the mouth. We did that as a team, we stuck together.”
Forte’s availability was a question mark heading into the season after he missed half of training camp with a hamstring injury. It was the latest setback for Forte, who was discarded by the Bears this past offseason.
For most of his eight seasons in Chicago, he was the definition of durability and productivity: 8,798 yards and 48 rushing TDs on 2,087 carries and 4,184 yards and 19 touchdowns on 494 receptions. But after a knee injury sidelined him for three games last season, the Bears’ front office made it clear to the aging free-agent running back that he would not be re-signed.
But so far, Forte has been everything the Jets wanted.
“He’s a good football player” Bowles said after Thursday’s game. “He’s a workhorse. He’s done all of the little things right, even the hard, grind-out runs, to things opening up at the end, and we stayed with it and we stayed with him. He got some things done at the end.”
Shortly after posting 100 rushing yards, Forte told reporters he felt “good,” adding: “Even though it’s a 30-carry day, I got an extra couple days to rest and I felt good going into the game. I’m just glad the Thursday night game was this early in the season.”
Told that he’s on pace for more than 450 touches for the first time in his career, Forte said he’s unsure if the coaching staff will scale back his workload.
“I don’t know. I don’t care, either,” he said. “I’m going out there to play. As long as we keep winning, I don’t care if I have 1,000 touches.”
Matt Forte’s 2016 numbers:
Avg. offensive yards/game