June 25, 2024

Bears Analysis

Top 25 most important Bears in 2023: No. 11 Khalil Herbert

Herbert should be a significant contributor in Bears’ rushing attack

Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert gets outside of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, during their game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2023 season.

What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?

The best player on the team isn’t always the most important, but he certainly can be. We will announce one player every day between now and the start of training camp.

No. 11 Khalil Herbert

Position: Running back

NFL experience: Third season

Last year’s ranking: No. 23

Looking back: Khalil Herbert entered the 2022 season coming off an impressive rookie performance. The 2021 sixth-round draft pick totaled 433 rushing yards and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2021. A year later, he proved to be a more-than-capable second option behind lead running back David Montgomery. Herbert was the most efficient running back in the NFL, averaging 5.7 yards per carry (leading all qualified NFL running backs) on 129 carries. He totaled 731 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. He nearly out-gained Montgomery, despite playing in three fewer games.

Over the offseason, the Bears allowed Montgomery to walk away in free agency. To replace him, they signed free agents D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer, and also drafted running back Roschon Johnson. The Bears have significantly reimagined the running back position, but the one constant is Herbert.

Looking forward: It’s still unclear what the plan will be with the running backs, but this feels as if it might be trending toward a dual-back situation. It’s possible Herbert or Foreman will emerge as the prototypical “lead back,” but it’s also possible the Bears use them roughly equally. Last year’s snap counts could’ve been closer to 50-50 between Herbert and Montgomery if Herbert hadn’t missed a month with a hip injury (Montgomery was on the field for 61% of offensive snaps; Herbert for 29%).

If someone does emerge as a lead back, Herbert could be the favorite thanks to his efficiency and his familiarity with the coaching staff and system. Additionally, Herbert has already caught as many passes (23) in two seasons as Foreman has in his six-year NFL career.

But regardless of the snap counts, Herbert is going to be a big part of this offense in 2023. The Bears still want to be a run-first offense under coach Matt Eberflus, and they want to do that while limiting the hits Justin Fields takes. That means the running backs are going to have to step up. The Bears led the NFL in rushing last year, but that was largely on the shoulders of Fields, who was their only 1,000-yard rusher. This year, if someone hits that mark, it will ideally be a running back.

In case you missed it: Previous installments of the top 25

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.