Despite deficiencies elsewhere, the Chicago Bears are rich with hard-running halfbacks. Last year, Khalil Herbert proved he’s more than a special teamer and could play a more prominent role in the new and improved offense.

Since Chicago parted ways with Matt Forte in 2016, the Bears have cycled through utility running backs on rookie contracts. Much of the NFL has followed a similar pattern. In a passing league, it’s cheaper to keep a tandem backfield than a big-name star. Plus, rotating between two or three ball carriers serves as insurance against fatigue and injury.

In 2021 and 2022, Chicago drafted Herbert from Virginia Tech and Trestan Ebner from Baylor. As David Montgomery enters a contract year, questions remain whether the Bears are ready to move on from the fan-favorite. Montgomery’s future in Chicago could depend on Khalil Herbert’s performance just as much as his own.

Last season, Herbert exceeded expectations as the backup RB, carrying the ball 103 times for 433 yards and two touchdowns. He also hauled in 14 receptions and stepped up as the lead back for Montgomery in weeks five through eight. Montgomery returned to the starting role for the rest of the year and logged 225 carries for 849 yards and seven touchdowns. Herbert and Montgomery displayed similar rates of production when given the opportunity.

Look for Chicago to test the younger back in 2022. If he can prove to carry the ball as effectively as Montgomery, and the team’s record is that of a rebuilding year, it would not be out of the question to ship off #32 before the trade deadline. If nothing else, it changes the contract negotiation in Chicago’s favor, as the team could live without Montgomery.

So far, both Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy seem to want to retain Montgomery. If that is the case, expect the pair to operate like a faster, more physical version of Green Bay’s AJ Dillon/Aaron Jones combo. Combined with an exponentially more athletic and morally sound quarterback, Getsy should have fun cooking up schemes for Chicago’s running game.

Read more about the Chicago Bears offense.

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