Free-agent running back Justin Forsett has made no secret about his preference to stay with the Ravens after a Pro Bowl season, but many thought the departure of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak might complicate that sentiment.
After all, Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards in Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme and also played for the new Denver Broncos head coach for one season in Houston, but the 29-year-old back likes what he’s heard about new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. The former Chicago Bears head coach has a reputation for preferring the passing game, but head coach John Harbaugh has made it clear that the Ravens won’t try to mess with a running game that thrived in 2014.
Forsett sees the potential for an added wrinkle under Trestman that wasn’t a major factor in his game this past year.
“I’m excited that we’re going to keep some of the main [rushing] principles that we had,” Forsett told WNST.net in Phoenix last week. “I think it’s been working for us, so why not keep it going? I’m excited about what he’s going to bring to the offense as far as maybe some extra routes for the running back. I know Matt Forte caught a lot of passes, so I’m all about that.”
The two-time Pro Bowl selection Forte caught 176 passes for 1,402 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons under Trestman and was just the latest running back to have a major role as a receiver in the 59-year-old’s offense. As the offensive coordinator in Oakland, Trestman ran a system in which Charlie Garner caught 91 passes for 941 yards in 2002.
His three years with Arizona from 1998-2000 produced two Cardinals running backs — Larry Centers and Michael Pittman — with seasons of 69 or more receptions. And before that, Derek Loville caught 87 passes out of the backfield for San Francisco in 1995, Trestman’s first year as the 49ers offensive coordinator.
Of course, it’s no secret that Trestman has historically leaned toward the passing game, which would typically lead to running backs getting fewer carries but more opportunities to make receptions out of the backfield.
Forsett caught only 44 passes for 263 yards last season and didn’t make a touchdown reception until the 35-31 loss to New England in the division round. But he’s shown strong ability as a receiver in limited opportunities in past seasons, reining in 41 passes in 2009 and 33 in 2010 with Seattle.
The 5-foot-8, 197-pound back plans to meet with Trestman in the near future as he will continue working out at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills this offseason. As he and his wife are expecting another baby this offseason, Forsett will rest his body after the biggest workload of his NFL career, but he doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels counting down to the start of free agency.
“You definitely feel it. I’m going to get some rest,” said Forsett, who plans to remain in Baltimore throughout the winter. “You get older [and] it’s hard to really get back into shape. You always want to make sure when you really start training, you’re not going to start back at zero. You want to be able to continue to move and progress and kind of go up in that upper climb. I’m going to continue to work out and continue to keep my body in shape.”
It will be interesting to see what kind of market develops for Forsett as it’s no secret that running backs have been devalued in recent years. He will turn 30 next October and many will argue that he was a product of Kubiak’s zone system, but Forsett averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career prior to the 2014 season, proving he’s had plenty of success when given the opportunities.
After finally breaking the mold in which teams previously viewed him as a change-of-pace and third-down back, Forsett hopes the Ravens will commit to him with more long-term security than he’s ever enjoyed in his seven-year career.
“That’s where my heart is. I want to be back in Baltimore,” Forsett said. “Unfortunately, there’s a business part. I’m just being patient. I’ve been able to do that my whole career.”