D’Onta Foreman was never supposed to be the lead back in Carolina last year. That should have been star running back Christian McCaffrey.
Following a 1-5 start to the season, however, the Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule and sent McCaffrey across the country in a trade with San Francisco. Foreman found himself as the top back in Carolina for the final 11 games of the season.
“I was able to kind of reinsert myself and kind of open some eyes to letting people see, you know, what I bring to the table and how good I can truly be,” Foreman said.
In the 10 games after McCaffrey left, Foreman averaged 79.7 rushing yards per game. He finished the season with 914 yards and five touchdowns on 203 carries. He was one of the biggest surprises for a Carolina team – which many NFL fans had already left for dead – that went 6-5 over the final 11 games of the season.
Now, Foreman comes to Chicago looking to join a Bears backfield that is under a transition. Gone is lead back David Montgomery, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Detroit Lions last week. Foreman signed a relatively modest one-year, $3 million contract with the Bears.
With Montgomery out of the picture, Foreman and third-year pro Khalil Herbert will be the top running backs on the Bears’ roster next season. Herbert led all NFL running backs with 5.7 yards per carry in 2022, totaling 731 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries.
The Bears could be heading toward a dual backfield with Herbert and Foreman. It’s still possible they could add a rookie through the draft, too. The 26-year-old Foreman certainly isn’t coming here to play a backup role.
“I can’t really speak for the coaches and the plan that they have,” Foreman said. “I came here to try to be the guy. I think if I didn’t come here with that mentality, I would be doing myself a disservice.”
When he was in orange and blue, Montgomery could be an all-purpose back when needed. He played all three downs and was reliable as a pass catcher and pass blocker. Herbert was a change-of-pace back who ran a lot more north-to-south than Montgomery, hence his league-leading rushing average. But Herbert was sometimes a liability in pass blocking and he has caught only 23 passes over his two seasons (in 30 games).
Foreman isn’t much better in that regard. He has also caught only 23 passes in his career, although that’s in five seasons (43 career games). He does, though, come in confident as a blocker.
“If I’m not mistaken, I don’t believe I ever gave up a sack in a game,” Foreman said. “Ever. People can take that how they want to, but I think my pass blocking is pretty good. But I can always get better, of course.”
Foreman is a former 2017 third-round draft pick of the Houston Texans. An Achilles injury ended his rookie season early and nearly cost him all of the 2018 season. Then a bicep injury cost him all of 2019 after he briefly signed with Indianapolis. Foreman then resurfaced with the Tennessee Titans in 2020.
He went through training camp with Atlanta in 2021, but was cut in early September and didn’t field much interest from other teams for two months. During that time, his father died in a single-vehicle truck accident, and Foreman seriously contemplated quitting football.
Not until Derrick Henry broke his foot in late November did Foreman get a call. He was returning to the Titans. Over the final nine games of the season, Foreman rushed for 566 yards, marking a career high that he subsequently bested last year in Carolina.
“As I kind of went through that phase of my life, I think it just changed a lot about me,” Foreman said. “[It] changed a lot about my mentality, the way I look at things, the way I view situations. I think that has helped me a lot. I’ve grown a lot, and I just want to continue to grow.”