“Next man up.” It’s a line we hear over and over again in football, as injuries are so pervasive in the sport. It’s also a line we hear over and over again, because it’s true. Injuries create opportunities for players farther down the depth chart to turn heads and win a job. We saw it last year with 2020 fifth-round selection Kindle Vildor, and now Vildor finds himself right in the middle of a competition to win the Bears' second starting cornerback job. Now it’s something we may be seeing with 2021 sixth-round draft pick Khail Herbert.
“He's really caught my attention,” Matt Nagy said. “I think he's somebody that, again, you talk about the word trust, he hasn't made many mistakes as a rookie. He's very, very smooth. When he gets the football, you can see the burst that he has. He's always going to go forward with yards. I just really like where he's at right now.”
Herbert has gotten extra work recently, since David Montgomery limped off early in Saturday’s preseason game against the Dolphins, and left Monday’s practice early with soreness, as well. He’s made the most of it too, flashing quickness and reliability catching out of the backfield. His six rushing attempts were the most of anyone on the team on Saturday, and he churned out 38 yards on those carries for a 6.3 YPC. Through the air, he caught all three of his targets for 11 yards. Those three catches were tied for second-most on the team behind Rodney Adams. Herbert also made a heads-up play when he recovered a fumble on a bad snap from Sam Mustipher.
With Tarik Cohen still limping around the practice field as he recovers from an ACL injury, Herbert could carve out a role for himself in the offense if he simply continues to play like he did over the weekend. If he continues to avoid mistakes and Nagy’s trust in him grows, then he seems like a shoo-in for some kind of action.
Herbert recognizes that he needs to capitalize on every opportunity the Bears give him, and that recognition would usually lead to some nerves in a rookie. But not for Herbert when his number was called on Saturday.
“Surprisingly, I wasn’t really nervous,” Herbert said. “I kind of felt like this was where I was supposed to be. But it was a blessing to go out there and get the win.
“Just show them that I’m able to do whatever they need me to do. Whatever you need me to do I’m going to try to do it to the best of my ability. That’s really what I’m just trying to show.”
The Bears may need Herbert to fill in at running back, catch passes out of the backfield and contribute on special teams too. And so far he is showing them he’s up to the task.