Chicago Bears have one of the best running back groups in the NFL

Chicago Bears (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

The most exciting part of this preseason so far, outside of Justin Fields, has been the Chicago Bears running back room. The performance of David Montgomery behind an injured and underperforming offensive line last year was impressive. The Bears expect big things from him this year.

The Chicago Bears also signed Damien Williams and drafted Khalil Herbert to add to the running back group. Pair these offseason acquisitions with the return of Tarik Cohen and the Bears have one of the deepest and most dangerous running back rooms in the NFL. The biggest question for Matt Nagy right now is who makes the Week 1 roster and who goes to the practice squad. Let’s take a look at each of the backs and their likely landing spot on the roster.

Chicago Bears RB1: David Montgomery

UP first, David Montgomery. The Iowa State product was sensational last year both rushing behind a battered offensive line and receiving out the backfield. He totaled 1,070 yards on the ground averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The 4.3 yards per carry is especially impressive considering the poor blocking.

Montgomery was third in the NFL in broken tackles behind only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. That is elite company for a running back. Montgomery did a great job making something out of nothing, netting 590 rushing yards after contact. For reference, he only had 480 rushing yards before contact. This shows drastic improvement in Montgomery’s ability to shed tackles and manufacture extra yards every time he touches the ball.

He also developed into a threat in the passing game with 54 receptions for 438 yards. Montgomery is a lock for the starting job at running back and should be responsible for the vast majority of rushing yards this season.

Chicago Bears RB2/3: Tarik Cohen

Up next, Tarik Cohen. Cohen is a great back with explosive speed and is a dangerous threat out of the backfield. He is very dangerous in space and has the ability to make defenders look silly. He has also shown he is a legitimate weapon in the passing game totaling 456 yards on 79 receptions in 2019. He missed most of the 2020 season with a torn ACL injury sustained in Week 3.

Cohen has never been an every-down back but has always been a key contributor to this offense. There is some concern with how the ACL injury from last year will affect his play, but the Bears are allowing him to take his time and not rushing his return.

There are also positive rumors regarding his rehab coming out of training camp. Matt Nagy, as usual, has been fairly tight-lipped about when Cohen will return, but I fully expect that when he returns to the active roster he will be the number two running back on the depth chart and receive significant playing time.

Chicago Bears RB2/3: Damien Williams

Damien Williams has spent six seasons in the NFL as a backup running back splitting his time between Miami and Kansas City. Over those six seasons, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry on his way to 1,251 total rushing yards.

Williams has shown the ability to be a dependable backup that takes care of the ball with only three fumbles on 294 carries. He is also a threat in the passing game racking up 1,106 yards on 138 receptions over his six-year career.

Williams, while dependable, has never been able to break through into a starting role. I expect that trend to continue in Chicago where he will likely be third on the depth chart until Cohen returns. Williams has had a solid preseason by all accounts but I do not see him moving past either Cohen or Montgomery on the depth chart. However, he is still a very solid back and another weapon in the Bears’ arsenal for this season.

Chicago Bears Potential RB4: Khalil Herbert

Finally, Khalil Herbert. Herbert was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft. He spent the beginning of his college career at Kansas before transferring to Virginia Tech for his final year of eligibility.

Virginia Tech is where Herbert was really given the opportunity to display his talents averaging 7.6 yards per carry on his way to 1,183 rushing yards on the season. Herbert has an uncanny ability to read plays and hit holes with explosive speed and has been using the preseason to make to most of his opportunity.

He adds another threat to the Bears’ rushing attack and also brings special teams experience to the roster.  Herbert returned 16 kicks for 489 yards at Virginia Tech for close to a 30 yard per return average.

I think Herbert makes the Week 1 roster either number 2 or 3 on the depth chart behind Montgomery and possibly Williams. When Cohen returns, I would like to see Herbert take the number 3 spot over Williams or at the very least be on the roster for special teams. This is a young running back with a high ceiling that could very well be another late-round gem discovered by Ryan Pace.

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Overall, the Bears’ running back room has quite possibly the best depth in the NFL and, if used correctly, has the potential to give defensive coordinators headaches. There is not a bad running back in any of these top 4 and all should be on the roster in some capacity for the upcoming season.