How D’Andre Swift could be the weapon Bears need in backfield

Swift signed 3-year contract with Bears in March

Chicago Bears running back D'Andre Swift speaks at a news conference after NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

LAKE FOREST – During an organized team activities practice this spring, Bears quarterback Caleb Williams dropped back to pass and found himself surrounded by defenders. In heavy traffic, Williams dumped off a pass to running back D’Andre Swift.

Despite the obstacles between himself and the quarterback, Swift made a tough contested catch with one hand. He took the ball upfield for a nice gain after the catch, too.

“He’s a weapon out of the backfield, which is outstanding for our passing game, and it’s going to create some mismatches for us,” coach Matt Eberflus said last week at Halas Hall.

It’s only early June, and the Bears don’t start playing real football until the pads come on in late July, but Swift appears to be exactly what the offense was missing last season.

When the Bears lost running back David Montgomery in free agency ahead of the 2023 season, they lost their best all-around running back. Throughout the 2023 season, they never really had a jack-of-all-trades running back.

Running back Khalil Herbert runs hard and can make some big plays when there are open holes. Backup D’Onta Foreman was the opposite last year – physical and punishing, even when there weren’t holes [the Bears did not re-sign Foreman in 2024]. Roschon Johnson, a rookie last season, had a few nice moments but totaled double-digit carries in only one game.

Enter Swift.

He’s coming off a season in which he totaled 1,263 all-purpose yards (1,049 rushing and 214 receiving) and six total touchdowns for the Philadelphia Eagles. Along the way, he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance.

That came after three seasons with the Detroit Lions. He totaled more than 800 all-purpose yards in each of his three seasons with the Lions, too. He’s a reliable pass catcher [he totaled a career-high 62 receptions in 2021], and a punishing runner.

The Bears made Swift a priority when free agency opened in March. The Bears and Swift agreed to terms less than half an hour after free agency began. The Bears signed him to a three-year, $24 million contract.

“It’s a great situation to walk into when you’ve got a rookie quarterback who has great potential and you’ve got guys around him who have been in the league for a couple years,” Swift said.

Even with Williams now at quarterback, Eberflus’ Bears are going to remain an old-fashioned, hard-nosed team. Eberflus wants to lean on his defense, which was one of the best in the NFL during the second half of 2023. Even with a new QB and a new offensive coordinator, Bears fans should expect their team to take a run-first approach.

Eberflus said he felt his team needed a weapon out of the backfield.

“We really needed that guy that can really operate on third down and even on first and second down to be a weapon in the deep part of the field and the short part of the field and be able to take it the distance,” Eberflus said. “He’s got a lot of gas.”

Swift said his new quarterback, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, looks like a natural leader. Williams is only 22 years old, but he’s quickly earning the respect of veteran teammates.

When everything’s new, the offense is new, a new group of guys, it takes repetition for us to be comfortable together.”

—  D'Andre Swift, Bears running back

“I’m looking at him every single day out there, the good days, the bad days – stuff takes time,” Swift said. “When everything’s new, the offense is new, a new group of guys, it takes repetition for us to be comfortable together. It’s going to take time, but he’s doing a great job as far as listening and being vocal with us.”

Having a player like Swift in the backfield would help any rookie quarterback. The Bears have done their best to surround the 22-year-old Williams with as many weapons as possible.

Swift could turn out to be one of the best additions of the bunch.

“When you’ve got a good running game, I feel like it makes the whole offense itself more balanced,” Swift said.

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.