After making a positive impact during his rookie season, Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert is looking to take his game to the next level in Year 2.
Advanced Stat to Know: Herbert’s Elusive Rating (55.5) was 10 points higher than David Montgomery’s (44.5). (PFF)
According to PFF, Elusive Rating is a stat measuring success and impact of a runner with the ball independently of the blocking.
Best Game of 2021
Herbert’s best performance last season came in the Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He finished with 100 yards rushing on 18 attempts (5.6/YPA) with 74 of those yards coming after contact. Herbert’s 4.11 yards after contact per attempt was his highest of the season.
He also caught all five of his targets for an additional 33 yards.
Even though the Bears got stomped and lost the game 38-3, it was an outing that put Herbert on the map as a legitimate running back in Chicago.
How much will Khalil Herbert’s role expand in 2022?
One thing is for certain, we didn’t see enough of Herbert last season. Even though the running back was efficient with his touches, averaging more yards per touch than David Montgomery both on the ground as a receiver, Chicago didn’t give him many opportunities as the season wore on.
Herbert didn’t have more than four carries in a single game after Week 8 despite averaging over 19 carries and 86 yards per game between Weeks 5-8 in place of the injured Montgomery.
Once Montgomery returned, Herbert was practically placed on the shelf.
The hope is Herbert’s role will grow under a new coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is coming from Green Bay, where the Packers nearly split the carries 50-50 between AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones.
Herbert also fits the Bears’ new outside-zone heavy scheme better than Montgomery. Herbert typically plays with more patience and has the vision to find the cutback lanes better than Montgomery.
Even last year’s staff knew this as 83 percent of Herbert’s carries came in zone whereas Montgomery only ran zone on 74 percent of his carries.
Between Getsy’s experience being in an offense that splits the carries and Herbert’s more natural fit, it’s easy to see a larger role for Herbert in 2022.
However, Montgomery is in a contract year. The Bears may opt to give him the bulk of the carries as they determine whether or not to re-sign him to a new deal. Of course, if they decide on a more even split and decide that’s how they will approach offense moving forward, they could use that as a bargaining chip to lower Montgomery’s price tag.
Time will also tell just how much the Bears want to use some of the other backs on the roster like Darrynton Evans who they claimed off waivers and rookie Trestan Ebner.
Herbert proved that he can be effective. He took advantage of the few opportunities he was given last season. Now is the time for the second-year running back to show his new coaches that he can not just handle more touches, but make them meaningful ones as well.
One way he can do that is to eliminate drops as a receiver. He had two last season.
As mentioned, he and Montgomery are two different styles of running backs. Chicago would be smart to unleash both of them to keep defenses unbalanced. For Getsy, he saw it work firsthand in Green Bay with the speedy Jones and the bruising Dillion complimenting one another all season.
Surely it could work in Chicago, too.
The Bears have preached that they will be a run-first team. This is their plan as they want to put Justin Fields in the best position to succeed, and a young QB’s best friend is a strong rushing attack.
In order for this ground-heavy approach to work to its fullest capability, Herbert is going to need to take on a larger role.
And if last year is any indication, he should be able to handle it just fine. In fact, he has the potential to thrive.
Prediction: Increased role as RB2.
Stats: 150 Rushes, 645 Yards, 5 Touchdowns / 25 Catches, 180 Yards, 1 Touchdown / 15 Kick Returns, 375 Yards.
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