When the 2023 offseason started, I predicted that D'Onta Foreman would be the starting running back. I was wrong, but maybe I should have been right. Khalil Herbert wasn't bad to start the year. In fact, he had some strong moments. I always questioned his ability to block though and that is still as big of an issue for Herbert in 2023 as it has been his entire career. Herbert has more burst than Foreman though and the Chicago Bears obviously preferred the speed over the blocking.
My biggest issue with the decision is that if you are going to keep Herbert as your starting running back, then outside zone runs need to happen more often. We saw it last season and we expected it to be the focal point of the running game with Luke Getsy at the helm. For some reason, it hasn't seemed to be the main focus for Chicago's running scheme this season. Running into the middle of the defensive line fits more with Foreman's ability than Herbert's and we saw that when Herbert was out due to injury and Foreman was starting.
Unfortunately, Foreman's blocking ability isn't much better than Khalil Herbert's. In fact, the best pass-blocking running back on the roster (called it before training camp) is rookie running back Roschon Johnson. I wasn't all-in on Roschon Johnson because he reminded me of a better pass-blocking version of Khalil Herbert. The team already had Herbert. I had Johnson ranked 7th among the 2023 running back prospects and gave him a fourth-round grade (the round he was selected). I should have been higher on him in Chicago, but didn't see him as a starter right away.
The Chicago Bears seem to be transitioning to Roschon Johnson
It now appears that Roschon Johnson is taking the torch and hopefully never giving it back (Ryan Poles reference). It could definitely be due to D'Onta Foreman being hurt, but Johnson is now out snapping and out touching Khalil Herbert.
At the beginning of the season, Johnson was the backup running back to Khalil Herbert. D'Onta Foreman was usually a healthy scratch. Johnson saw an average of 37% of the Chicago Bears snaps prior to getting hurt (concussion) in the Washington game and missing the two games after. He maintained that backup role for four games after coming back from injury and saw a similar 35% of the team's offensive snaps. In Week 12 though, with no D'Onta Foreman (ankle), we saw Johnson take on the lead role ahead of Khalil Herbert. Johnsons saw 74% of the snaps and had 15 touches to Herbert's 8.
It could be that Herbert is not fully healthy (looks less explosive), but it could also be that Roschon Johnson has earned the increase in snaps and the lead role. His blocking is superb and he's been running the ball too. Not to mention, he isn't a liability in the passing game with 24 catches on 28 targets (85.7%). It seems to me that the Chicago Bears have turned to their rookie over at least Herbert. Herbert will likely still be here in 2024 though since he has a year left on his rookie contract.