LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — Should Khalil Herbert enjoy a breakthrough season as the Bears’ lead running back, he’ll have to earn it.
After losing David Montgomery in free agency to the division rival Lions, the Bears formed what appears to be a backfield by committee. The team signed veterans D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency, then selected Roschon Johnson in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. As the Bears continued their offseason program Wednesday, it remained unclear how exactly their running back corps will take shape in 2023.
Amid that uncertainty, Herbert is embracing the depth the Bears have added around him rather than resenting it.
"You need one, two, three really good guys that really carry the rock,” Herbert said. “And there's going to be no drop-off.
“We’ve got a really strong group. We’ve got guys who can take it to the house at any given moment."
The Bears will once again rely on their running game to be the foundation of their offensive identity after rushing for a franchise-record 3,014 yards in 2022. They were led by Justin Fields, whose 1,143 rushing yards were the second-most by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history.
A third-round pick of the Bears in 2019, Montgomery rushed for 3,609 yards and 26 touchdowns over 60 games in his Chicago tenure. He was crowned as the lead back shortly after arriving as a rookie and held the role for four seasons.
Now, Chicago must fill that void with Montgomery off to Detroit, and the 25-year-old Herbert has the inside track to be the Bears' top running back. He has rushed for 1,164 yards and 5.0 yards per carry in his first two seasons after the Bears selected him in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
“He can really do a great job of hitting the home run,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said of Herbert. “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.”
The six-year veteran Foreman is the most accomplished rusher in the Bears' backfield. He has carried 443 times for 1,901 yards and 10 touchdowns over 43 career games. In 2022, Foreman stepped in as the Panthers’ top back midway through the season and ran for 914 yards and five scores. The 24-year-old Homer has rushed only 83 times for 453 yards and one touchdown over 49 career NFL games while largely filling a reserve role.
The rookie Johnson drew strong praise from the Bears after he was selected with the No. 115 overall pick in the NFL Draft in late April.
"He is a really good football player that I know is going to be successful in this league in many different ways,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said.
Poles and the Bears pursued Montgomery in free agency back in March, but he instead signed a three-year deal in Detroit that led to the transition in Chicago. In addressing the media in Detroit recently, Montgomery said losing with the Bears “sucked the fun out of the game” and contributed to his departure from the organization. The Bears went an NFL-worst 3-14 in 2022.
If the Bears are to become a winner this season, they'll need to rely on their running game. Herbert hopes to carry his team to that coveted success.
“Losing sucks at the end of the day,” Herbert said. “I know nobody was too happy to lose last year. And that’s one thing I feel like we’re trying to change this year.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.