I’m still agitated that I have to see Khalil Herbert go on IR and miss the next four games. But where agitation ends, inspiration begins. After all, the NFL is a next-man-up league, and the Chicago Bears need to be progressive in finding way to replace Herbert’s production.
It won’t be easy, but I have some ideas (which go beyond giving David Montgomery more carries, because, well, of course that’ll happen to an extent).
Give Trestan Ebner a Chance
Remember when Trestan Ebner scored the Bears’ first preseason touchdown?
Ebner – one of the Bears’ many Day 3 picks from last April’s NFL Draft – is RB3 on the depth chart, which makes him the first “next-man-up.” And if he can be used on Texas routes like the one above, then maybe he can crack the rotation and not make the Bears’ running backs room overly reliant on Montgomery.
There is a great bit of unfamiliarity with Ebner, seeing that he has played on just 50 offensive snaps in 10 games this year. And that he hasn’t done much as a returner (in fact, he’s been bumped off those duties since his early season appearances) should probably be seen as a sign that the Bears aren’t ready to give him an extended look. But we’re at a point in the season where this team *SHOULD* be looking toward the future. With that should come extra practice reps and game snaps for young players who are under contract next year (and in following years). To me, this means Ebner should get a crack at getting some of the carries that would’ve otherwise gone to Herbert.
The Ebner post-draft sizzle reel was some of the most captivating two minutes of buzz building film I’ve seen.
Could This Be Velus Jones Jr.’s Second Chance?
I’ve been hoping Velus Jones Jr. would get another crack at it after his recent demotion. Because despite the muffed punts and dropped catches, Jones still has raw tools — speed, tackle-breaking ability, vision as a ball carrier — that can make him a useful component in this offense.
So … why not give Jones a shot as a rusher?
And not just as someone getting jet sweeps, shovel passes, or end-arounds. But instead as someone in a Cordarrelle Patterson type of role. Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy has done wonders in stealing from other, more successful playbooks. Perhaps he should dig into what has made Patterson successful out of the backfield:
While browsing through some of Patterson’s various highlight reel runs, I noticed that the fullback was present in many of them. So perhaps the way this could work is to use VJJ in tandem with fullback Khari Blasingame. Doing this would simplify the game for the rookie dabbling at a new position by taking the thinking out of it. Just follow the fullback, then use your speed and agility at the next level,.
The Bears should be progressive in their attempts to get the most out of the Jones pick. This isn’t to say he should be taking away from more deserving players. But few things are as valuable as a skill position player on a rookie contract. And even though Jones hasn’t worked out as a receiver, it doesn’t mean he can’t be useful in other areas. It will be up to the coaching staff to squeeze out what they can from Jones and make the most out of GM Ryan Poles’ first notable draft weekend misstep.
Elevate Darrynton Evans
OK, so Darrynton Evans’ recruiting efforts to woo Julio Jones fell short. I won’t hold it against him. Want to make up for it? How about an elevation from the practice squad to take some of the carries that Herbert would otherwise be getting?
Between some injuries and the fact he was behind Derrick Henry on the depth chart, Evans didn’t get much burn with the Titans. But his college film was enticing and his traits are intriguing:
Evans is currently hanging out on the Bears’ practice squad. And because we’re not opposed to contributions coming from unexpected places, I’d love to be pleasantly surprised by the springtime waiver claim making a positive impact. But he’ll need to get moved up from the practice squad before that can happen.
Throw the Dang Ball
If the Bears’ play caller was looking for a sign to throw more, this might be it.
In theory, we’d love to see Fields throw the ball more. After averaging just 15 attempts per game in the first three weeks, Fields has been averaging 23.1 passes since. And that number could be higher if it weren’t for pass protection breakdowns that led to Fields scrambles. But, hey, a bunch of those runs were chunk plays anyway. So … net win?
Since Week 4, Fields is 99-for-162 (61.1%) for 1,192 yards, 10 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a respectable 96.5 passer rating. Sure, Fields is averaging only 170.3 yards per game through the air in that time. But if Fields threw it 33 times a game instead of 23, perhaps we could see that number grow. Extrapolate that 7.36 yards/attempt number to 33 attempts and we’re looking at 242.8 passing yards per came. The Bears have to make up yards somehow. So maybe the aerial attack gets a boost in Herbert’s absence.
In the End…
Replacing a rusher averaging 6.0 yards per carry won’t be easy. But if there is any position where someone can provide help in a pinch, it is at running back. Heck, Herbert did more than a bang-up job in replacing Montgomery earlier in the year. Why can’t someone else do something similar behind Herbert? I’ll be curious to see how the Bears go about plugging the hole starting this week against the Falcons.