Bears starting RB job up for grabs this summer

Bears starting RB job up for grabs this summer originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Last season the Bears didn’t do much well, as evidenced by their league-worst 3-14 record. But their run game was tops in the NFL. A lot of that had to do with Justin Fields developing as one of the most explosive scramblers in the game, but plenty of credit belongs to the offensive line and the stable of running backs.

This offseason’s additions on the offensive line should play to the strengths in the run game. Darnell Wright is a huge blocker who moves well in space and can dominate defenders at the second level. New right guard Nate Davis is known as a capable run blocker, and the team hopes Teven Jenkins can stay healthy to lock down the left guard spot.

There have been numerous changes in the running backs room, too, but the team will be without its tone setter in David Montgomery. Ryan Poles has made it clear he was hoping Montgomery would return to Chicago in free agency, but Montgomery opted to head to Detroit instead. So the team signed D’Onta Foreman and drafted Roschon Johnson, two players who bring the same physicality that Bears fans grew to love. Poles also signed Travis Homer, who didn’t put up eye-popping numbers in four years with the Seahawks, but who prides himself on reliable pass protection and special teams play. Khalil Herbert remains, and he flashed whenever given the opportunity to carry the ball. But Herbert has only carried the ball 15+ times in seven of his 30 career games.

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So the question heading into 2023 is, who will lead the way as the Bears try to repeat as rushing champs? So far, the Bears don’t have an answer.

“I would say the vision isn’t necessarily set yet,” said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. “The competition in that room is going to be real.”

“We got pieces to the puzzle and those guys will sort it all out,” said running backs coach David Walker. “That’s the good thing about it. No one has earned a seat in that room yet, and they’re all going to earn their seats from what we do now until August whatever, whenever that third preseason game is. So that’s the good thing and they know it. That’s been communicated to them.”

Walker did share who will get the first crack at running with the ones, but reiterated the Week 1 starting jobー and the backup job, and the third-down job, etc., etc.ー are all still up for grabs.

“The very first rep, the very first day, Khalil will be the first guy,” Walker said. “But after that all bets are off.”

When it’s all said and done, however, it may not matter who wins the starting job and who comes off the bench. In the seven games that Montgomery and Herbert played together following the team’s minibye, the backs split carries much more evenly. Montgomery had 82 attempts to Herbert’s 66. That comes out to a 2.2 carry/game difference, which was much closer than earlier in the season. Montgomery and Herbert played four full games together before the minibye and Montgomery outcarried Herbert 59-24. That was an 8.75 carry/game difference.

“I don’t know if there’s any team that can rely on one guy anymore with the pounding and the length of the season and all that stuff. So I think it’s awesome that we have as many guys as we do that we feel we can count on.”

Even with defined roles possibly being less important for the Bears this season, there’s only so many snaps to go around each game. And the competition for those snaps should be fierce.

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