Khalil Herbert earns PFF rookie class honor


Ryan Pace was always known for finding value in the middle rounds of drafts during his tenure as Bears GM. Now, he’s earning national recognition for finding one more gem in his final draft.

Being named the best sixth round pick of a rookie class is certainly a specific honor, but an honor nonetheless! Herbert earned every bit of praise with his reliable, impressive play, too.

Think back to Week 4, when David Montgomery sprained his MCL in the waning moments of the Bears’ win over the Lions. Montgomery was the only reliable piece of the offense up to that point. Matt Nagy had insinuated that Montgomery had become the identity of the offense.

Then, just as soon as the Bears had finally found their bellcow, he was gone. The Bears seemed doomed to offer any kind of support for Justin Fields in the offense. Except they weren’t.

Enter Khalil Herbert. With only three carries to his name, all coming in the latter stages of the Lions game, Herbert didn’t officially draw the start in Week 5. Instead it was Damien Williams set to carry the load. But when Williams needed a breather, Herbert came in and reeled off some impressive runs: 11 yards, six yards, seven yards, nine yards. By the end of the game Herbert had outcarried Williams, 18-16. The Bears had also found their new stop gap starter.


The way in which Herbert gained chunks of yards was equally impressive as his sudden emergence. He showed a veteran’s patience as the offensive line opened up holes for him. Once those holes opened up, he showed a natural ability to time cutbacks to keep opposing defenses on their heels.

Herbert ended up being the perfect placeholder in the backfield while Montgomery recovered, averaging a great 4.4 YPC in the four games Montgomery missed. When Montgomery returned, Herbert once again took a backseat in the offense, but the team was able to move forward knowing they had a reliable backup waiting in the wings.

When you add in Herbert’s special teams prowess, his season becomes even more impressive. He contributed immediately in the kick return game, and ended up tied for the sixth best kick return average in the NFL at 24.1 yards per return. He reeled off 30+ yards often, giving the offense a little boost, and rarely made bad decisions when bringing the ball out of the endzone.

By season’s end, Herbert’s numbers were modest. He carried the ball 103 times for 433 yards and two scores. He chipped in 14 catches for 96 yards in the passing game, too. None of those numbers are impressive on their own. But when you dig into how Herbert got those yards, and the context in which he played, they become far more meaningful.

Most meaningful of all is that the Bears can rest easy knowing they’ve got a reliable one-two punch in the backfield.

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