One of the lone bright spots on the Chicago Bears over the last couple of games has been the play of rookie sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert, who’s stepped in for the injured David Montgomery and provided the Bears running game with field-flipping juice and high-level production.
Herbert recorded his first 100-yard game as a pro against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, one week after running for 97 yards and a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers. Over the last three games, Herbert’s carried the ball 55 times for 272 yards and has averaged better than five yards per carry over the last two weeks.
The former Virginia Tech Hokie was something of an afterthought in the run-up to the 2021 NFL Draft. First-round prospects like Najee Harris and Travis Etienne, along with day-two names like Javonte Williams and Trey Sermon, left Herbert to reside in anonymity until Bears general manager Ryan Pace selected him with the 217th overall pick.
There were 15 running backs (including one fullback) picked before Herbert in April’s draft, but there may only be one—Harris—who’s outplaying him right now. And even that’s not a sure thing. Herbert has been that good. Herbert’s been so good, in fact, that longtime NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell offered a fantastic comp for his skill set.
“I watched his tape coming out of Virginia Tech, and he very much reminded me … stylistically he reminded me of Tiki Barber,” Cosell said on the Ross Tucker Podcast.
Cosell noted that it took Barber several seasons before he became a feature back in the NFL, and it’s the kind of path we could be on with Herbert in the short term. Barber finished his Giants career with 10,449 rushing yards, 55 touchdowns, and a career average of 4.7 yards per carry. He was a productive receiver, too, who finished with no fewer than 52 catches in any season from 1999 to 2006. He didn’t truly become a foundational runner until his fourth season in the league.
Remember: Montgomery is under contract through the 2022 season, and barring a shocking turn of events, he’ll regain his role as the feature back in the Bears offense once he returns from his sprained knee. Herbert should retreat from the spotlight at that time, but he’s done enough with his opportunity to suggest he’s a starter in waiting—on a rookie contract—once Montgomery is ready to hit unrestricted free agency. Essentially, Herbert could elevate to RB1 in Chicago in his third season.
We’re a long way from Herbert being the next Barber, but it’s an interesting comp, to say the least. And if the Bears get even a fraction of the returns from Herbert that the Giants received from Barber, he’ll go down as one of the biggest draft-day steals in many years.
- Aug 12, 2022
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