The Chicago Bears are going to have several of their offensive playmakers back in the lineup in time for their Christmas Eve showdown with the Buffalo Bills.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed Monday that second-year running back Khalil Herbert has been cleared to return from injured reserve and is expected to play against the Bills in their Week 16 home game. Herbert was placed on IR with a hip injury following Week 10’s loss to Detroit, but he became eligible for activation this week.
“He is cleared, ready to go,” Eberflus told reporters during his December 19 press conference. “Like we said last week, he’s got all his jumps, his speeds. He’s been cutting, he’s been moving. He’s been looking great. We’re excited about his return.”
Herbert has been having a second-year boom for the Bears despite splitting his carries with lead back David Montgomery when both are healthy. He has just five more carries than he did as a rookie in 2021 but has rushed for 210 more yards and twice as many touchdowns (four) in his 10 games of action. According to Pro Football Focus, he also has 19 runs for 10-plus yards and 430 yards after contact this season.
With both Montgomery and Herbert in the backfield, the Bears will have a potent rushing attack to use against the Bills in a long-odds matchup that has Chicago currently pegged as 8.5-point underdogs against one of the AFC’s top teams.
Will Bears Demote Another RB After Herbert’s Return?
The Bears did not officially activate Herbert from their injured reserve list on Monday, but they have a few options for how to proceed. They could designate him for return to practice on Tuesday and simply wait until later in the week to move him back to the 53-man roster, or they could just simply activate him on Tuesday if they feel comfortable. Either way, once Herbert comes back to the active roster, Chicago could have another decision to make about their running back room.
The Bears have been leaning on Darrynton Evans as their second rushing option in Herbert’s absence, elevating him from the practice squad for the first game without Herbert before signing him outright to the 53-man roster on November 26. Initially, it seemed like rookie Trestan Ebner would hold down the RB2 role behind Montgomery, but he only got one game in the role before Evans overtook him on the depth chart.
Over the last three games, Ebner has played just seven total offensive snaps (five of which came against the Eagles in Week 15) and recorded six carries for just eight yards. Meanwhile, Evans has played a combined 47 offensive snaps and produced some impactful plays, including his 33-yard reception in Week 11’s loss to the New York Jets.
The Bears might not feel it necessary to demote one of the two of them upon Herbert’s return, but they would have four running backs and one fullback on their roster — on top of a prolific rushing quarterback in Fields — if they kept everyone. But if someone gets demoted, would the Bears risk losing a rookie draft pick (Ebner) to the waivers or keep him and cut loose the more productive of the two backs?
Bears Could Also Regain Depth at WR Against Bills
Eberflus also mentioned that wide receivers Chase Claypool (knee) and N’Keal Harry (back) are “trending in the right direction” and said the Bears are “hopeful” both could return in time to play against the Bills. Claypool did not participate in any of last week’s three practices coming out of the bye week and was ruled out in Week 15’s final injury report, while Harry was declared inactive prior to kickoff due to his injury.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields was forced to make do without the majority of his primary receivers in their 25-20 loss to the Eagles, losing Equaniemous St. Brown in the first quarter when he was taken out to be evaluated for a concussion. His top receiver, Darnell Mooney, is also stuck on season-ending injured reserve, leaving him with a crew of Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, Velus Jones Jr. and Nsimba Webster as his wideouts.
“It’s challenging for sure,” Fields said after Week 15’s loss to the Eagles. “I think the main thing for that is everybody being prepared, everybody knowing the game plan and everybody being on top of their stuff.
“You can wonder all you want [how things would be if the Bears had everybody healthy], but the reality is that we don’t, so you’ve just got to play with who you have out there and, like I said before, everybody has got to be prepared and be ready to play.”