The Emergence of Khalil Herbert

One of the few bright spots in the Chicago Bears for the 2022 season came in the form of the backup running back. In an article written in July before the season, I identified the rise of running back Khalil Herbert as a breakout candidate for the season. However, I didn’t expect the massive jump in production Herbert received throughout the season. With fellow running back David Montgomery’s future with the Bears uncertain, Herbert’s breakout season could be a big factor in letting Montgomery walk in free agency.

Let’s start with some stats: in Herbert’s 2021 rookie season, he took 103 carries for 433 rushing yards, averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry. In his past sophomore season, he got a small uptick in carries (129), but most impressively produced 731 rushing yards. That’s good for a ridiculous 5.7 yards per carry, along with adding four rushing touchdowns on the season. Out of ALL running backs last season, that 5.7 YPC only trails James Cook by 0.03. If you’re not a stathead, essentially Khalil Herbert was one of the most efficient carriers in the whole entire league.

Stats are stats, but in my opinion, the eye-test is the best method of determining who’s good and who isn’t. Boy, did Khalil Herbert pass the eye-test. Week in and week out, Herbert clearly looked like the faster and more agile back compared to Montgomery. Ball security was also a strong suit for Herbert, not fumbling a single time all season. While Montgomery definitely has his strengths, Herbert flashed far too much potential to take a backseat role next season.

There’s always the argument that Herbert wouldn’t produce the same stats as the starting running back. However, in Week 3 with Montgomery out for injury, Herbert stepped up HUGE with 20 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. This absurd statline was only a sample of his playmaking abilities that Bears fans have only seen small glimpses of the past two seasons.

While I wouldn’t necessarily be upset about Montgomery returning to the Bears, I don’t think he would be willing to take a deal with a small amount of money. In addition, Herbert’s production has clearly earned him first-team reps, so Montgomery would only be a complimentary piece. Regardless, Khalil Herbert should expect a big season next year, completing a speedy backfield with quarterback Justin Fields.
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