Bears Rookie With ‘Most Potential’ Could Sneak Ahead on the Depth Chart

Matt Eberflus

Getty Bears head coach Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears talks with general manager Ryan Poles during training camp, where a RB battle is brewing.

Running back is one position the Chicago Bears seemingly have sewed up, but that doesn’t mean the competition at the position won’t get interesting.

The Bears play their first preseason game on August 12, when they host the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field and rookie running back Roschon Johnson will be one of the top players to watch.

Johnson is currently behind incumbent Khalil Herbert and free agent acquisition D’Onta Foreman, but ESPN insider Courtney Cronin thinks the rookie out of Texas could quickly move up to become the squad’s three-down back soon if he impresses.

Cronin: Johnson Has ‘Most Potential’ of Any Bears RB

The folks at ESPN took a look at the biggest positional battles happening on each NFL team, and for Chicago, it was running back. After gauging the group at the start of training camp, Cronin shared her thoughts.

“Foreman and Herbert have split first-team reps, while OC Luke Getsy has experimented with using both backs as pass-catchers, a role neither has occupied much throughout his career,” Cronin wrote on August 7, before adding she could see Johnson get more snaps sooner than later:

“All three are efficient rushers, but the determining factor in who’s No. 1 likely comes down to pass protection, a skill Herbert has focused on getting better at this offseason. Though Foreman and Herbert have the most experience, Johnson might carry the most potential as a three-down back.”

Former Bears offensive lineman and current analyst Tom Thayer also had some very high praise for the rookie RB, particularly as a blocker. “Roschon Johnson, I gotta say, is one of the best pass blocking running backs I’ve ever seen come into the league as a rookie and is fundamentally sound — it’s sustaining, it’s contact with feet,” Thayer said on the team’s official podcast on August 7. “And so what I’ve seen out of Roschon not only as a runner, his blocking is as impressive as that.”

Johnson Says He’s Ready for Contact

Chicago’s three preseason games will be important for Johnson, who can use all the experience he can get. He served as the backup for 2023 No. 8 overall pick Bijan Robinson, so he didn’t see the touches he would have seen as a starter. Still, he made the most out of his opportunities.

As a senior in 2022, Johnson finished with 93 carries for 554 yards and five touchdowns, also catching 14 passes for 128 yards and a score. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back says he’s been acclimating well so far, and there’s plenty of evidence from training camp so far to prove it:

“Once we get pads I can get more physical,” Johnson said on August 4, adding he was looking forward to “being in an actual game and having live reps, getting into the full swing of just playing a game.”

In his final season at Texas, he forced 46 missed tackles on 94 rushing attempts, and his 5.1 broken tackle rate was ranked second in the nation. The rookie rusher averaged over 5.0 yards per carry in each of his three seasons with the Longhorns.

“I know the talent that I possess and I know what my capabilities are,” Johnson added. “So I know I’m more than capable of providing for this team. So it’s just a matter of learning the system, being able to play faster, and learning the nuances of the system so I can go out there and not think and just play and have my body take over.”

It’ll be interesting to see if he can take over the running backs room, as well.

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