Which Running Backs Are in Trouble After the Bears Offseason Changes?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

“Is Khalil Herbert at risk for a demotion? Roschon Johnson seems like great value in the fourth round, but that’s a crowded RB room now. — @mosconml

“My initial reaction when the Bears selected Johnson was that puts real pressure on Herbert. The Bears led the NFL in rushing last season with David Montgomery, Herbert and quarterback Justin Fields. Montgomery signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency, and the Bears added D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer. Consider the current front office and coaching staff didn’t draft Herbert and you start to wonder how things will shake out.

“Generally teams keep three running backs on the 53-man roster, and that doesn’t include the fullback, where the Bears could have Khari Blasingame. I wouldn’t rule out a fourth running back making the roster. This is a good situation for the Bears in that it will raise the level of competition.”

My first thought when I read this question was that last year’s sixth round pick, Trestan Ebner was the player that’s in the most serious jeopardy.  He decidedly underperformed last year when given a chance to play, carrying 24 times for only 54 yards.  But perhaps Biggs already assumed that we would know that.

Most Bears fans considered Herbert to be a reasonably productive running back last year.  At 731 yards on 129 carries for 5.7 yards per carry he was an important compliment to Montgomery, who was more of a straight line, power type of runner with good contact balance.   Foreman seems to have a similar style.

There are four other running backs on the roster:  Foreman, Homer, Herbert, and Johnson.  Assuming the Bears keep three total running backs, a lot depends on how much the Bears like Homer.  He gained only 74 yards on 19 attempts last year and, like Johnson, would be mostly depended upon to add to special teams.  Given Johnson’s reputed strength in this area, you could argue that Homer’s job is in jeopardy, as well. But its worth bearing in mind that the Bears gave Homer a 2 year, $4 million contract with $1.75 million in dead money if he’s cut.

Bottom line, I see Ebner as being in more serious trouble that Herbert, who was a statistically productive running back on the field last year and whose skills could leave him in an important role in a potential running back rotation. Given the possible special teams contributions from Johnson and Homer and given Herbert’s production, I think that they most likely decide to keep four running backs after that unless Homer shows that he is decidedly better than Herbert.