This issue is holding Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert back

Chicago Bears - Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears seem to have a dynamic runner in Khalil Herbert. That is why it was so frustrating to see that he only got four carries in the return of David Montgomery to the lineup. It makes sense that Montgomery would keep his role, but the Bears have been run-heavy, and being able to mix Montgomery’s thunder with Herbert’s lightning would have thrown defenses off guard.

However, while fans love Herbert and want more, the coaching staff has been slow to move him up the ranks. In his first game without David Montgomery, he was behind Damien Williams and only took over as the hot hand. Still, Williams worked the high leverage plays such as goal line and long down and distance in that game.

Then, when Williams returned from the COVID list, he was the starter over Herbert before getting banged up. Even in that small sample, Herbert ran much better, but the coaches leaned to Williams.

So, it was not a huge surprise to see the coaches pushed him right back into regular backup duties after Montgomery came back. The question is, why?

Pass protection is holding Khalil Herbert back

We noted after his first game that he struggled in pass catching in his limited chances. That is why Williams was seeing long down and distances and the two-minute drill. This theme has continued in every start for Herbert as the passing game as a whole has held him back. Against the Bucs, fans recall him missing a block that wound up with Fields getting strip-sacked.

Then, against Pittsburgh, Herbert only saw two-pass protection reps, but they both turned into losses. One led to a pressure where he failed to pick Devin Bush up the middle rushing.

PFF grades are not the end-all, but he had a 25 pass protection grade against Pittsburgh; Cody Whitehair was next worst at 35. He has a below-average pass-block grade on the season, and that comes on just 26 snaps because he has not earned anymore.

Ultimately, fans want to mix in Herbert, but Montgomery is still a more complete overall back to this point. When Montgomery is on the field, he can catch, run, and block, but it is typically reduced to just running at this point for Herbert.

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This is likely why Herbert fell into day three despite the burst and production last season. It will be on him to grow as a pass blocker and earn more time on the field.