Big year lies ahead for Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert

Herbert will battle with Foreman, Homer and Johnson for snaps

Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Chicago.

This season could be Khalil Herbert’s big chance, but he’ll have to earn it.

The Bears allowed running back David Montgomery to walk away in free agency, but invested heavily in the position by bringing in free agents D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer, as well as rookie draft pick Roschon Johnson. It has been a nearly complete overhaul at the position with one big exception: Herbert.

Herbert has an opportunity to stand out at the position as the team’s lead back.

“I’m just approaching it as calm,” Herbert said at Halas Hall last week. “Every day, you’ve got to compete. You’ve got to compete. And I come in with the mindset, obviously, that I want to be the starter.”

Herbert led NFL running backs with 5.7 yards per carry last season. In 13 games, he rushed for 731 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries. He also caught nine passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Herbert had an incredibly efficient season when he was healthy [he missed four games because of a hip injury]. He might be the favorite to be the starting back in 2023, but he also will face stiff competition from Foreman and the rest.

The Bears signed Foreman to a one-year, $2 million contract in March. Foreman had a breakout season last year with the Carolina Panthers. Injuries previously had derailed his career late in his rookie season in 2017, and it took him several years to work his way into a starting job. Last season with Carolina, Foreman rushed for 914 yards and five touchdowns on 203 carries, keeping the Panthers afloat after trading away Christian McCaffrey.

They also added Homer, who should be a key special teamer, to a two-year contract worth up to $4.5 million. The Bears then selected Johnson out of Texas with a fourth-round draft pick.

The rookie was stuck behind All-American Bijan Johnson for most of his career at Texas, but looked impressive when he did have his chances.

“You know how things go in the NFL now,” Herbert said. “They’re doing things running back by committee. You need one, two, three really good [running backs] that really carry the rock and there be no drop off. I feel like, as a group, we’ve got a really strong group.”

“You need one, two, three really good [running backs] that really carry the rock and there be no drop off. I feel like, as a group, we’ve got a really strong group.”

—  Khalil Herbert, Bears running back

The Bears have begun the process of parsing through the running back position at OTAs over the last several weeks. Herbert can hit a hole quickly, and he’s a talented north-south runner. He twice had runs that went for more than 50 yards.

“He can really do a great job of hitting the home run,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said. “He’s got great vision. He’s got great cut-back ability. He can take the ball outside and bounce it outside, but he’s really good at cutting it back when it’s there. We’re excited where he is.”

He will need to contribute more as a pass catcher. Foreman didn’t do much of that either, totaling only five receptions in 2022.

For Herbert, a big struggle for him in the past has been his pass blocking. He won’t be a three-down back if he doesn’t improve as a pass blocker – which was something Montgomery was much better at.

Herbert has a secret weapon when it comes to improving in that area.

“Punching bags, boxing,” Herbert said. “I did boxing this offseason just to work on my punch time. You know, different things like that. Everybody’s different, but that’s what I tried working on to help me.”

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.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.