The Chicago Bears revamped their offense this offseason as their rebuild continues. After producing one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL last year, the team is hoping to take pressure off star quarterback Justin Fields with another great ground game in 2023.
We dive into the Bears’ running back depth chart and project who will be the starter and backup in 2023.
Chicago Bears RB Depth Chart
The Bears allowed veteran David Montgomery to depart to Detroit, then replaced him with former Carolina Panthers back D’Onta Foreman and fourth-round rookie Roschon Johnson. Foreman has already been clear he has no intention of being a “backseat” option to Herbert, but he won’t have much of a say once the team hits the field. Foreman was good in 2022 when he broke out with 914 yards, but Herbert was dominant in his 129 rush attempts.
Foreman has defied the odds to even get to this point of his career. A torn Achilles injury in 2017 could have ended his career right there, and a torn biceps injury in 2019 further set him back. But promising stints with Tennessee and Carolina have shown a player who maximizes his opportunities and still has the athleticism to get downhill in a hurry.
Foreman characterizes himself as a “hard-nosed runner,” and he doesn’t hesitate once he gets the ball. According to Next Gen Stats, Foreman spent the fifth-least amount of time running behind the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, both he and Herbert were significantly more efficient than Montgomery was last year.
The biggest problem Herbert had last year was the Bears’ reluctance to give him more snaps when Montgomery was healthy. Though Herbert hasn’t produced as a pass catcher yet, Foreman’s addition shows the team may not value that aspect as much as they may have previously. Foreman has only 23 receptions in five seasons, Herbert had 23 in two seasons, and Johnson had 32 over his final three seasons at Texas.
With the receiving corps getting a big boost by the addition of DJ Moore, a healthy Darnell Mooney, and sliding Chase Claypool into a more-fitting third-target role, the receiving aspect from the RB position may not be as important.
Herbert’s ground production justifies giving him a larger role and relegating Foreman into more of a “lightning” to Herbert’s “thunder.”
Herbert’s efficiency in 2022 was startling, but a real breakout can come with more touches. He led all running backs with 5.7 yards per carry, ranked seventh in juke rate, and overcame the 21st-ranked run-blocking unit. The biggest flaw on Herbert’s résumé was he wasn’t given a role when Montgomery was available.
Bears GM Ryan Poles said the plan is to not rely on one back and to instead maximize the rotation they’ve built at the position. Whoever is the starter may be more of a nominal role, which is something fantasy football managers will hate accounting for. My guess is Herbert prevails as the lead back, but Foreman will be a constant presence if he stays healthy.
Will Roschon Johnson Back Up D’Onta Foreman or Khalil Herbert?
Chicago was busy revamping their RB room despite producing one of the best rushing attacks in the league in 2022. They not only drafted Johnson but also signed former Seattle Seahawks backup Travis Homer. With Herbert and Foreman vying for the top two spots, Johnson and Homer could fill in as the third-down back.
Despite the draft equity put into Johnson, he’s not a clear favorite to be the RB3 if the Bears want variety. Johnson was a solid player at Texas, and Chicago area scout John Syty eluded to his “it factor” after he led all rushers with a 45% missed tackle rate over his last two seasons. But Johnson’s not different from Foreman, so it’s possible he’s simply going to replace the veteran in 2024.
The 6’0″, 219-pounder ran just a 4.58 40-yard dash but showed good explosiveness with a 1.52-second 10-yard split and 122″ broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine. Still, considering he was Bijan Robinson’s backup at Texas and he’s not a special athlete at the NFL level, Johnson may have been an overdrafted rotational presence.
Homer, meanwhile, fits the Bears’ need for a pass catcher more than Johnson. Through four years, the fifth-year pro has caught 52 passes for an average of 8.9 yards per reception. Though he’s never been a high-volume threat, Homer’s quicker than fast and fits the mold of someone who can be efficient if given the chance to be a playmaker.