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Bears' Khalil Herbert on competition at running back: 'Obviously, I want to be the starter'

David Montgomery's departure to Detroit has left the Bears' RB1 spot up for the taking.

Khalil Herbert is hoping it turns out to be his.

"Every day, you gotta compete," he said Wednesday regarding Chicago's competition. "You gotta compete. And I come in with the mindset, you know, obviously, I want to be the starter. Just coming in with the mindset of leading and doing what I gotta do and doing what I do every day that I've been doing. I feel like things will work out."

The third-year running back enters June in pole position for good reason.

Although Montgomery led the RB group in rushing yards in each of the last four seasons before leaving, Herbert put his stamp on Chicago's offense in 2022, and was arguably the better fit in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's system as a north-and-south runner and the bigger big-play threat.

Compared to Montgomery's 801 rushing yards on a 4.0 yards per carry average, Herbert rushed for a career-high 731 yards with 5.7 yards per attempt, tops among all RBs in the league.

Despite his stellar play, the Bears still hedged their bets this offseason, filling the void left by Montgomery with two free-agent additions, D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer, and drafting Roschon Johnson in the fourth round.

His team's many additions did not surprise Herbert, however.

"You know how things go in the NFL now," he said. "They're doing things running back by committee. You need one, two, three really good guys that really carry the rock and you know there's gonna be no drop-off. I feel like as a group, we've got a really strong group. We've got guys that can take it to the house at any given moment. So, I'm excited to see what we do."

The trio of Herbert, Foreman and Johnson, with Homer as a depth piece behind them, should provide Chicago with a well-rounded arsenal to supplement quarterback Justin Fields' continued development.

As for the pecking order, Foreman, at least right away, is the biggest challenger to Herbert's starting role. He impressed with his opportunity in Carolina last year after the team traded Christian McCaffrey away, running for 914 yards and five touchdowns.

Although Johnson will have the freshest legs as a rookie, his lane is more that of a power back, someone who can complement Herbert rather than take away his shine.

But no matter how it eventually stacks up come September, Herbert told reporters he's been setting himself up to take on more snaps. He's put on five pounds and implemented a boxing a routine to improve his punch as a pass blocker. Protecting the QB has been a weakness in his game since he entered the league, a skill that's a must for a runner looking to see the field at any down and distance.

"You've got to be an every down back, so that's a big part of it," Herbert said about pass protection's role in the ongoing competition. "It's something I worked on throughout this offseason. I don't know about compared to the other guys, but it's something that I've been working on to fix."

Becoming an improved blocker would go a long way in rounding out Herbert's game, as would upping his threat level as a pass catcher after having only 23 receptions in his first two seasons.

Herbert already believes he can and should get first dibs on starting duties. He's been putting in the work heading into Year 3, and he's confident the results will speak for themselves.

"I don't got nothing to prove," Herbert said. "I just go out there and do my job. I like to prove myself right really, that's about it. But I just go out there, do my job, do what I've got to do, the rest will take care of itself."

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