The Bears have had their first 1,000-yard rusher since David Montgomery in 2020 with the signing of D’Andre Swift.
The Bears return three backs from last season while adding Swift and UDFA Ian Wheeler over the offseason.

While questions remain about what the Bears may do behind Swift, let’s look at all the backfield options.

D’Andre Swift

The one-time Detroit Lion returns to the NFC North after one season in Philadelphia. Swift signed a 3-year, $24 million deal with the Bears on March 11. Coming off a career-best rushing campaign, the dual-threat back should play a major role in this Bears offense.

Coming out of the University of Georgia, Swift was selected with the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft by Detroit. Swift spent three seasons with the Lions, appearing in 40 games, totaling 16 starts. During this time, he was forced to split carries with a number of different backs, including Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, and Jamaal Williams. Swift finished his Lions tenure with 1,680 yards on 364 rushes and 156 receptions for 1,198 yards with 25 total touchdowns. Arguably, Swift’s best game in a Lions uniform occurred in week six of his rookie season. On the road in Jacksonville, the rookie back rushed 14 times, amassing 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. His 6.3 yards per touch in 2022 was the 10th-highest in the NFL.

On day three of the 2023 NFL Draft, D’Andre Swift was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a win-win for everyone included, as Swift had a career-best Pro Bowl campaign following the trade. While starting 15 of the 16 games he appeared in, Swift rushed for 1,049 yards (5th-most in the NFL) on 229 carries with 5 touchdowns. In week two at home versus Minnesota, Swift ran for a career-high 175 rushing yards on 28 attempts and scored a touchdown. As a passing option, he recorded 39 receptions for 214 yards and a touchdown. 

Swift comes to Chicago as the clear-cut RB1. While another 1,000-yard rushing season would be fantastic, it seems he is on track for closer to an 800-yard campaign, according to oddsmakers. His rushing touchdown total is set at 5.5; this could be a number he gets over ¾ of the way through the season. Swift may get overlooked with all of the offensive options, but he will thrive as the most talented player back in Chicago since Matt Forte.

Khalil Herbert

Herbert, the 2021 6th-round pick, returns to the Bears with one year remaining on his rookie deal. Despite his tumultuous tenure, former general manager Ryan Pace found the Bears a true steal with Herbert in his final draft. Throughout his three first seasons, Herbert has dealt with a couple of injuries, limiting his time on the field as a return specialist and running back.

Herbert has appeared in 42 games with 12 starts, including 9 last season. On 364 carries, he has rushed for 1,775 yards and 8 touchdowns in his career. Herbert has also proven reliable as a pass-catcher, recording 43 receptions for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. While Herbert no longer appears on special teams, he did rack up 796 yards on 32 returns in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Herbert has recorded five career games with 100-plus rushing yards, with three occurring last season. Herbert’s best game occurred in week three of 2022 at home versus Houston, when he rushed for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries.

Herbert may not be on the roster in week one as he is a trade or cut candidate. If he stays in town, I believe he should be the RB2; however, there would undoubtedly be competition with Roschon Johnson. While a long-term extension is all but a pipe dream, Herbert’s consistency and unique playstyle are always a good change of pace for the offense.

Roschon Johnson

The Bears’ 4th round pick last year from Texas, Roschon Johnson, returns for the second season of his 4-year deal. In his rookie year, Johnson had 352 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 81 carries. He was also dependable with his hands, recording 34 receptions for 209 yards.

As mentioned earlier, Johnson should be competing for the RB2 spot with Khalil Herbert during training camp. Unlike Herbert, there is no reason to let go of Johnson with three years remaining on his deal. If he does earn the backup role to D’Andre Swift, the Bears backfield could be a true “thunder and lightning” duo with Swift’s speed and Johnson’s power.

Travis Homer

The oldest running back in the room is former Seahawk Travis Homer. Originally a 2019 6th-round pick by Seattle, Homer spent his first four seasons in the Pacific Northwest. Homer was primarily a backup in his Seattle tenure, playing with the likes of Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and Marshawn Lynch. Homer ended his time in Seattle with 49 game appearances, including 2 starts. He totaled 453 rushing yards and a touchdown on 83 carries. He recorded 52 receptions for 464 yards and 2 touchdowns as a receiver. Homer also took his share of kick returns in Seattle, including this onside kick he returned for a touchdown.

After hitting free agency, Homer signed a two-year deal with the Bears in March 2023. Last season, Homer was a non-factor on offense, only playing five snaps. However, he contributed to special teams, finishing with seven tackles in the year.

Like Herbert, Homer is a cut candidate this summer. His special teams impact can be replaced, and he is entering the final year of his deal. If Homer remains with the Bears, he should compete with Ian Wheeler for RB4.

Ian Wheeler

The final true running back on the roster is Ian Wheeler, a 5 ’10 speedster from Howard University. He played five seasons at Howard, including a grad year. Wheeler spent his freshman and sophomore seasons primarily on special teams. 

As a junior in 2021, Wheeler received improved playing time as both running back and returner. In 8 games, Wheeler recorded 443 rushing yards on 65 carries with 8 rushing touchdowns. As a returner, Wheeler had 265 yards on 11 attempts, including a 96-yard touchdown. Wheeler was named to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) All-Conference Second Team as a running back and selected to the All-MEAC Third Team as a return specialist. 

Wheeler would have a similar 2022 season, racking up 316 rushing yards on 57 attempts with 3 rushing touchdowns. He also added a receiving touchdown. On 19 kick returns, Wheeler totaled 424 yards, including a 94-yard touchdown. Wheeler was once again named an All-MEAC Second Team selection. 

Wheeler returned to Howard this past season as a graduate student. Once again splitting carries, Wheeler rushed for 380 yards on 52 attempts with 2 touchdowns in 11 games. On 17 kick returns, Wheeler totaled 494 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown. He would be named to the All-MEAC Second Team as a return specialist.

As an undrafted free agent, Wheeler’s best chance at making the roster will likely be on special teams as a part of the kickoff unit or as a returner. If the Bears part ways with Herbert or Homer, this could open opportunities for Wheeler to get rushing touches on Sundays.

Fullback // Khari Blasingame

It would be a discredit, not least, to mention Khari Blasingame here. The blocking fullback will be entering his 6th NFL season and 3rd with the Bears. Blasingame was PFF’s highest-graded run-blocking fullback last season. He appeared in about 20% of the Bears’ offensive snaps, in addition to being a contributor on special teams.

Blasingame’s hard-nosed style of play is reminiscent of old-school football. This garners respect from coaches, fans, and teammates, as Blasingame remains one of the last true fullbacks in the NFL.

Recently, the Bears typically hold onto four true running backs through the regular season. If the Bears hold onto these backs through training camp, we can assume Swift, Herbert, and Johnson are locked to make the roster. This leaves an open competition for Homer and Wheeler to fight for the last spot.
While Homer’s experience is nice to have, the youth and versatility may be too much to pass up with Wheeler. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this room changes before week one.

PHOTO: Chicago Bears

Leave Your Thoughts!

Check Also

Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze Have Not Signed Rookie Contracts

With under two weeks left until the start of training camp, there are currently five first…