FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Matt Forte is eager to be a bigger part of the New York Jets’ offense.
That means running the ball, of course, but also catching more passes out of the backfield - something he thinks new coordinator John Morton will allow him to do.
“A guy who catches the ball,” Forte said Tuesday after practice, “should be involved in the offense on the receiving side of it.”
There were times last season that Forte wondered what his role was under former coordinator Chan Gailey. He ran for a career-low 813 yards in his first year with the Jets, but also had just 30 receptions.
While Forte played through a torn meniscus in his right knee that eventually ended his season after 14 games, the dip in his production was also due in large part to Gailey’s deployment of personnel.
Forte was mostly used on first and second downs, and then often replaced by Bilal Powell on third downs - which is typically a passing situation. Forte told NJ Advance Media that the decision by Gailey, who retired after the season, to not use him more on third downs was “odd.”
“Last year, I don’t think I played really on third downs, which is, like I said, ‘odd,’” he said. “I went from catching like 100 balls to like 60 and last year, I caught like 30.”
With the Bears in 2014, Forte set the single-season record for running backs with 102 receptions after being targeted 130 times. On the flip side, he was targeted just 43 times and caught 30 passes last season.
Morton, a first time coordinator in the NFL, comes from a West Coast-based background, but said last week that he will change the offense’s approach each week depending on the opponent. He also said there’s value in using a running back committee - to keep the players fresh and opposing defenses off balance.
“I think it’ll be different from last year where I’ll be used on third down and even a two-back system where me and Bilal can obviously catch the ball, too, but we can both be out there on the field at the same time and change it up personnel wise where we’re getting the best matchups out there,” Forte said. “You can have a lot of talented guys, but it’s about matchups, too.
“I see a lot of versatility in this offense where you can put guys in different spots.”
The 31-year-old Forte has run for 9,415 yards in his nine NFL seasons, ranking him 34th all-time and fifth among active rushers. His 517 catches rank him 11th on the league’s career list among running backs.
Forte said Mike Martz used to split him out as a receiver during their time together in Chicago from 2010-11. Also, Adam Gase would have Forte in the slot in certain sets with the Bears when he was their offensive coordinator in 2015.
“That’s what I’m used to,” Forte said, “so I’m excited about it.”
Despite all that, Forte insisted he wasn’t upset or bothered by how Gailey used him last season.
“Nah, I mean, that’s the offensive coordinator’s job, is to use the players like he wants to use them,” Forte said. “I’m not the coordinator. I don’t make those decisions, and last year’s last year.”
And, this year? Well, Forte has high hopes, even if people outside the facility have little expectations for the Jets, whose likely starting quarterback appears to be Josh McCown.
But whether it’s McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg, Forte believes in Morton’s ability to get things moving on offense.
“It’s going to be good,” he said.
Forte’s optimism comes from the possibility that the running backs will be used more out of the backfield. Morton’s offense also has a much faster pace than it did last season.
“Johnny Mo, he 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. 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, then we’re not going to score a lot of points.
“I think he can do that for us.”
NOTES: WR Robby Anderson declined to comment on his arrest earlier this month in Miami, saying it is a legal matter. Anderson is scheduled to have an arraignment hearing on June 6. … WR Eric Decker was not at practice, but coach Todd Bowles simply said: “It’s voluntary.” … S Calvin Pryor was at practice after not attending the last session the media watched last Tuesday. The 2014 first-rounder, whose role is uncertain after the Jets drafted a pair of safeties with their first two picks this year in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, worked with the backups. Bowles said it’s part of a rotation through OTAs. Pryor declined to speak to reporters. … Both of the wide receivers the Jets drafted this year were sidelined: third-rounder ArDarius Stewart has a sore thumb, while fourth-rounder Chad Hansen has a sore hamstring.
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