The wait is finally (almost) over — Bears training camp is (nearly) upon us!
Rookies have reported to Halas Hall already, Veterans report tomorrow, and practices officially start Wednesday — that means more content is coming for all of us that starved through the dog days of the offseason, and it’s the perfect time to start previewing what I think will be the best storylines to follow throughout camp this year.
For starters: How will Roschon Johnson fit into the 2023 Bears’ RB room?
Before the Draft took place, the 2023 Bears’ RB room was well-rounded in theory but a bit over-specialized in practice:
- Khalil Herbert is a fabulous runner and a perfect system fit, but both his pass-blocking and pass-catching can be outright liabilities when the offense gets behind the chains
- D’Onta Foreman brings experience to the Bears as a hard-nosed one-cut RB, but offenses have avoided asking him to catch the ball since he first he got to the league and I doubt the Bears will expect much out of him in that phase of the game
- Travis Homer is a capable Special Teamer and all-around 3rd Down RB, but unless the Bears deviate from 2022 (where Herbert & Montgomery rarely substituted mid-drive, opting to rotate between offensive possessions) it may be hard to get him on the field for passing scenarios outside obvious 3rd downs
All of these RBs are talented players that produce well when playing to their strengths, but as of early April none of the RBs looked ready to take on an old-school 3-down role within an offense that’s utilized 3-down runners (Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, etc) to great effect — if an RB can capably sell Play Action, block on dropbacks, produce when handed the ball, and catch the ball when it’s thrown to him, this offensive scheme rewards him handsomely with open space and yardage galore.
Enter Roschon Johnson, a 22 year old out of Texas with remarkably little tread on his tires due to sitting behind phenom runner Bijan Robinson for all but his freshman year. This 6’2″ 220+lb has all the traits you’re looking for on tape, including:
- A quick first step that helps challenge tackling angles from the moment he takes the handoff
- A clear preference for playing North-South (as opposed to East-West)
- The explosion to get to wide lanes when needed (3rd clip is a great example of him exploding laterally multiple times while staying downhill throughout)
- The contact balance to grind out extra yards and a wicked stiff arm to boot
- Experience blocking in both standard pass sets and less orthodox sets (ex: on the move)
- Solid hands, though his tape lacks opportunities in the pass game due to circumstance
And if you ask me, he has an opportunity to play in Chicago very quickly if he makes an impression in Training Camp.
This city is going to LOVE Texas RB Roschon Johnson.
He's a true 3-down RB with the explosion to make hard cuts & the contact balance to break tackles en masse. He gets downhill, finishes carries, and he blocks (!) on pass downs.
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) May 8, 2023
I can’t imagine Johnson has a chance to unseat Herbert (who I’d expect to have worked on his blocking/receiving this offseason) as the RB1 within just a few weeks, but the RB2 role & a spot in the RB Committee will be up for grabs early & I think Roschon has a very real shot at seizing it — if he can prove that he’s able to handle NFL Linebackers in pass protection early, his 3-down versatility should do him favors in the eyes of those scheming up Chicago’s offense.
When Roschon is on the field for Chicago, your runner doesn’t tip play-types for the defense at all — when Herbert & Foreman are in the game, the Bears are either running the ball or using Play Action/a checkdown route to push their RB harmlessly out of the play. With Homer, the Bears are almost assuredly passing the ball. With Roschon in the game, the playbook is open and the defense has to widen to account for Chicago’s options. I struggle to imagine Luke Getsy and staff not wanting to take advantage of this.
Roschon (and, by proxy, the battle to win the RB2 spot) is my favorite story for Bears camp this year and I can’t wait to see how things shake out. We won’t get answers until September 10th, but keep an eye on August 12th’s preseason game — Roschon should get quite a bit of work, and if he’s successful within his opportunities? Who knows what’ll happen next.
Also, while I had it handy, here’s a quick reel that’ll help you get familiar with RB D’Onta Foreman.
Your Turn: Where do you think Roschon will fit into the 2023 Bears’ Season?