The running back room for the Chicago Bears seems to be a strength of the team for the 2022 season. They return two capable players, a play making rookie was added to the mix, a couple free agents were brought in to compete, and an honest to goodness professional fullback was signed for the first time since 2018 when Michael Burton played for the NFC North Champion Bears.
David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert return to provide one of the better 1-2 punches in the NFL, and the Bears have talked up their willingness to commit to the run game in 2022. Montgomery is coming off a down year due to injury, but in 13 games he had 842 yards rushing and he caught 42 balls for 301 yards.
Herbert didn’t get much playing time until Montgomery was out, and then his touches were inconsistent after D-Mo returned, but he still put up 433 yards, with 14 receptions for 96 yards. Most of Herbert’s damage was done from weeks 5 through 8 when he had 344 on 78 carries (4.41 avg), and 9 catches for 44 yards. Running backs tends to gain more comfort in pass protection in their second season, so if Herbert’s ready to pick up the blitz, then his playing time should increase.
Back in 2018 the Bears did have a fullback on the roster, but Burton only played in 8 games (49 offensive snaps) that season in Matt Nagy’s offense. The 2022 Bears figure to use Khari Blasingame much more than that.
“He’s going to be able to do some things for us outside of the traditional fullback role of just being an elite blocker,” said Chicago running backs coach David Walker during OTAs. “He’s got some skills. He’s a fullback by trade, but I wouldn’t consider him an old-school fullback role where he’s only going to be a lead blocker. He can handle the ball and do some things.”
Those things are some of the things we’ve grown used to seeing the U tight end do. He’ll run some wheel routes, find the soft spot over the middle against a zone, and provide a check down option for Justin Fields. At 6’, 233 pounds he’s a sturdy blocker, but he’s also good athlete, and his 4.55 forty speed will sneak up on a linebacker.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the #Bears utilize Khari Blasingame in their offense.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) May 31, 2022
They haven’t used a fullback consistently in ages. Blasingame’s speed and blocking ability could make him an underrated piece of the offense. pic.twitter.com/d7QhFgE875
A good bet to make it
It’s possible both rookie Trestan Ebner (5’11”, 206) and free agent pick up Darrynton Evans (5’10”, 203) make the 53-man roster, but considering I have Blasingame as a lock, that would make it a five man running back room. I think it’s more likely only one of them make it, with the other heading to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Both have good straight line speed for an outside zone scheme, both have some special teams value, but Ebner has shown more as a pass catcher. However as a two year veteran Evans should have an edge when it comes to pass protection.
Once camp starts we’ll have a better idea on where these two players stand, but if Ebner is able to pick up the blitz then he’s the odds on favorite to make it.
On the bubble
A fullback on the roster will either affect the numbers in the running back room, or it could cut into how many tight ends the team opens the season up with. If Chicago intends on using more 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE), then it does 11 personnel, then Ebner and Evans could both make the cut, which leaves UDFA De’Montre Tuggle (5’8”, 206) as their only bubble guy.
Tuggle is another back that adds value as a receiver out of the backfield, but his skill set may be redundant considering the make up of the room. I like him as a developmental prospect for the practice squad this season.
Who do you guys see sticking around at running back?