It was no secret what running back Khalil Herbert needed to improve upon over the offseason. If he wanted to be a true three-down back he needed to improve both as a pass protector and pass blocker. So he attacked those weaknesses this offseason, and took up boxing to improve his first strike when engaging with blitzing linebackers or cornerbacks.
Now that the Bears have put the pads on a few times, Herbert’s had a chance to see how far he’s come in his development, particularly as a pass blocker. He’s happy with the results so far.
“I feel like I definitely came a long way,” Herbert said. “Putting that intention toward it, working on this offseason and doing different things to work on it I feel like has helped. It’s good to see some of it pay off. We still got a long way to go. I still got a lot of things to get better at. But It’s good to see some of it paying off.”
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As the summer has progressed it’s become clear that Herbert will be part of a multi-faceted Bears rushing game. It does not look like there will be one bell cow this year. However, D’Onta Foreman has started taking more and more reps with the first team, leaving Herbert to fight for those valuable snaps along with others like Trestan Ebner.
On Wednesday, however, Foreman left practice early with an apparent injury. He didn’t participate in any team drills which left Herbert to take the majority of first-team snaps. Herbert made the most of his opportunity by coming down with several catches out of the backfield, in several different situations.
“The route tree is expanding for him,” said head coach Matt Eberflus. “I feel the trust happening with the quarterbacks, especially with Justin, and it’s starting to grow. I think it’s been growing over the last three or four weeks.”
If everyone’s healthy, it seems unlikely that Herbert ever approaches 20+ carries a game like a true workhorse. But if he keeps making improvements with his third-down skillset, he could show coaches that he can shoulder the load if injuries necessitate it during the regular season.