With Khalil Herbert on IR, Chicago Bears will need more from David Montgomery, Trestan Ebner

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery cuts away from Washington Commanders safety Kam Curl in the first half, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Chicago.

There’s no disputing that David Montgomery is one of the more punishing runners in the NFL.

Just when you think he’s stopped for a short gain, the Bears’ RB will plow ahead for 2, 3, 4 or even 5 more yards. He’s a workmanlike back who is also a capable receiver and good in pass protection.

Now with teammate Khalil Herbert (hip) on injured reserve, Montgomery’s workload could increase significantly. Instead of 12-15 carries, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Montgomery get 20-25.

While that’s all well and good, losing Herbert for at least four games is a huge blow to Matt Eberflus’ squad. The second-year back has ripped off runs of 63, 36, 13, 12 and 12 yards over the past five weeks and is averaging 5.95 yards per carry – second best in the NFL among RBs with at least 60 carries.

“Whenever you lose a player like that, it’s always hard,” said Eberflus, who does expect Herbert to play again this season. “Khalil’s got a great style to him. You guys have seen the breakout runs, so it’s hard to replicate that.

“We’re just going to have to share the load. (Montgomery’s) stepping up and doing some different things. Certainly a talented back for sure.”

True, but Montgomery – who missed Wednesday’s practice due to an undisclosed personal issue – simply doesn’t possess Herbert’s breakaway ability.

Montgomery’s longest run over the last six games is just 13 yards – and that came against Washington in Week 6. He’s averaging just 45.8 yards per game on the ground since Week 5 and has gone over 70 just once (in a Week 2 loss at Green Bay).

The Bears (3-7) have lost six of seven and will be facing a Falcons squad that has lost three of four, including a 25-15 setback to Carolina on Nov. 10.

This might be a good time for Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to open up the passing game because the Falcons rank dead last in pass defense at 280.1 yards per game. Every QB except one has thrown for at least 234 yards against them.

Still, the Bears’ bread and butter has been their three-headed monster in the run game, with Herbert (643 yards), Montgomery (434) and Justin Fields (749) combining for 1,826 of their 2,017 yards.

Herbert’s injury gives Trestan Ebner a chance to prove himself in a backup role. The rookie out of Baylor got significant playing time filling in for Montgomery in Weeks 3 and 4. He had seven carries for 23 yards in a win over the Texans and six carries for 20 yards in a loss to the Giants in New York.

“It’s unfortunate that Khalil got hurt, but it’s a good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do,” Ebner said.

Eberflus touted Ebner’s “really good speed” and “vision” – although we haven’t seen much of either in his 18 pro carries.

“I’m really fast, but I have to feel it out a lot,” said Ebner, who ran for 799 yards on 148 carries (5.4 average) in 14 games with Baylor as a fifth-year senior. “I’ve got to feel it out and make the right cuts. I think if I can just get around the edge more this game ... I can make some big plays.”

One of the knocks on the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Ebner has been his pass blocking.

He’s just not sure why.

“To tell you the truth, I always heard it was a knock on me, but I never gave up a sack in five years at Baylor,” Ebner said with a wide smile. “Probably I could fix a lot of technique things, yes.

“But as far as getting in there and hitting somebody and fighting, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Fields’ weekly presser ended with a question about Ebner, and the Bears’ QB wasted no time heaping praise upon his young teammate.

“He’s a great athlete and great running back,” Fields said. “The biggest thing with him is him learning ... the motion shifts because our plays are wordy. ... He’s grown since Week 1, or from even the preseason to now.

“He’s an explosive running back (and) he’s great with his hands, so I’m excited to see what he does this week.”