Bears can survive Khalil Herbert’s injury thanks to unheralded offseason move

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Bears can survive Khalil Herbert’s injury thanks to unheralded offseason move originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In typical Bears fashion, adversity struck just as they started to find their offensive rhythm, tailored around a free-playing Justin Fields and a potent ground attack.

Running back Khalil Herbert suffered an ankle injury during the Bears’ 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders on Thursday night at FedEx Field. Herbert had his ankle heavily taped and tried to return to the game, but he was unable to cut and limped off the field.

On Sunday, NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported that Herbert will miss “multiple weeks” due to the injury. The Bears are signing running back Darrynton Evans off the Miami Dolphins practice squad to add a body to their running back room, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago.

After three weeks of inefficient offense to start the season, the Bears found their groove against the Denver Broncos and Commanders. While Fields and wide receiver DJ Moore will get the headlines, the return of a productive and explosive run game has spearheaded the offensive resurgence.

Tight Cole Kmet, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, offensive lineman Teven Jenkins, and Fields all pointed to the ground game as a reason the Bears’ offense has come alive over the past two games.

Herbert’s patience, vision, and explosiveness are the main reasons for the return of the run game.

Over the past two weeks, Herbert has rushed for 179 yards on 28 carries, which is good for 6.3 yards per carry. The Bears’ ability to get back to their bread-and-butter power run game with Herbert has helped free up Fields in the passing game by putting defenses in conflict more often than they did in the first three games.

It’s unclear if Herbert will have to go on injured reserve. Rookie running back Roschon Johnson also left the Commanders game due to a concussion.

Losing your top two backs could be a death knell for some ground attacks, but an under-the-radar free-agent move should allow the Bears to weather the storm.

The Bears signed veteran running back D’Onta Foreman in March to a one-year, $2 million contract. At the time of the signing, it appeared that Foreman would compete with Herbert for the Bears’ lead-back role. But the selection of Johnson a week later altered those plans, and the rookie jumped Foreman on the depth chart after Week 1, forcing Foreman to be a healthy scratch for the last four games.

With Hebert down for a few weeks, Foreman, who is coming off a career year in 2022, should get a chance to stabilize the Bears’ ground game and keep the train rolling.

Foreman is coming off a 2022 season in which he rushed for 913 yards and five touchdowns on 203 attempts. Foreman forced 34 missed tackles while racking up 21 explosive runs with a 33.2 breakaway percentage (percentage of yards gained on runs over 15 yards).

That burst, explosion, big-play ability, and wiggle are why the Bears signed Foreman to be the perfect compliment to Herbert. They didn’t know Johnson would fall into their lap at the time of the signing. That led to a crowded backfield that has seen Foreman be the odd man out for the last month.

That should no longer be the case.

Foreman is a solid back with the one-cut-and-go ability needed to thrive in the Bears’ ground game. Assuming Johnson doesn’t miss a lot of time, Foreman and the rookie should form a solid one-two punch that will allow the Bears’ offense to stay balanced.

Getting Khalil Hebert going helped wake the Bears’ offense from its early-season slumber.

A week ago, it felt like Foreman might not be long for Chicago.

Now, after Herbert’s injury, the Foreman signing might end up being one of general manager Ryan Poles’ most valuable offseason swings — one that could be the difference between the Bears’ offense maintaining their new-round rhythm or devolving into the directionless attack they trotted out for the first three weeks.

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