The Chicago Bears have several position groups on the roster with questions that need answers in training camp. Right guard is the most obvious. There isn’t an established starter at this point in the offseason. Wide receiver is often criticized, and until a player or two establishes they’re more than just upside, it will continue to be a cause for concern in Chicago.
But not all is lost with this Bears team. There are legitimate strengths on the depth chart, beginning at running back.
David Montgomery getting a fresh start
The Bears will begin the 2022 season with a running back room overflowing with upside. Starter David Montgomery is in a contract year and has flashed the ability to be one of the NFC’s most complete backs. His tough between-the-tackles running and open-field elusiveness are exciting, as is his above-average ability as a receiver. Montgomery has a chance to ascend into the elite tier of running backs in 2022, especially now that there’s an offensive coordinator — Luke Getsy — who understands what it takes to put his best players in a position to succeed.
Montgomery finished the 2021 season with 225 carries for 849 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a disappointing season after topping 1,000 yards (4.3 yards per carry) a year before. Montgomery’s hot start in 2021 was derailed by a knee injury that forced him out of four games. Now, the fourth-year back enters a critical 2022 season with a career average of 3.9 yards per carry. He’ll have to prove in 2022 that his average career production has been because of Nagy. If he doesn’t, the players on the depth chart behind him will be ready to step in.
Khalil Herbert has NFL starter upside
Second-year running back Khalil Herbert proved as a rookie that he’s more than just a backup. In fact, Herbert, at times, looked like the most impressive rookie running back in the league. He’s an NFL starter, and if Montgomery suffers another injury in 2022 or gets off to a slow start, the Chicago Bears will give Herbert a chance to earn a significant role on offense. He’s a natural one-cut runner, the type that thrives in outside zone systems. His game has similarities to former Washington stud Alfred Morris, who had three-straight seasons of more than 1,000 rushing yards to start his career. His two most productive years were with Kyle Shannahan as his offensive coordinator in a system similar to what Getsy’s expected to deploy in 2022. Don’t be surprised if Herbert becomes a late-season star.
Herbert ran for 344 yards in the four games he filled in for Montgomery in 2021. He finished his rookie season with 433 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns despite few opportunities after Montgomery returned to the lineup.
Chicago Bears have intriguing options for RB3
Chicago’s running back depth extends beyond Montgomery and Herbert. Rookie sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner possesses an explosive skill set as a runner and receiver, and of the team’s running backs, he offers the most home-run hitting ability. Free-agent signing Darrynton Evans was once projected to be Derrick Henry’s long-term RB2 with the Tennessee Titans. He isn’t a lock to make the final roster, but the former third-round pick still has appealing upside. The RB3 battle will be interesting to monitor as the preseason games unfold.
The NFL season is long and grueling. It’s a 17-game war of attrition. Having depth at running back will be critical for any offense to be successful. The Bears have it, and that depth will go a long way in helping quarterback Justin Fields develop in his crucial second season in the league.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today.