Chicago Bears running back Roschon Johnson is used to being overlooked. He spent his entire college career as a backup to one of the top running back prospects in recent history, Bijan Robinson.
Last season, he ran for 554 yards and 5 touchdowns. He added 128 yards and a touchdown receiving. For his career, he had 2,190 rushing yards with 23 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He added 420 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving.
Despite having impressive numbers as a backup, not many people noticed it.
Now, as a backup running back in Chicago, Johnson has two players ahead of him. Khalil Herbert is considered the starter and D’Onta Foreman will see a lot of snaps as the main backup.
Johnson’s play during training camp and the preseason games is opening eyes among the Chicago Bears brass.
Johnson performed well in OTAs and the veteran minicamp. However, those were done in shorts. How would he look when the pads came on and he got hit for real? Well, he has continued his good play through training camp. Then that carried over to the preseason. So far this preseason, Johnson has rushed 19 times for 76 yards (four yards per carry).
Johnson has taken advantage of every opportunity he has. With the players ahead of him receiving time off during the preseason games, he gets more snaps to impress the coaching staff. He has done just that.
Johnson is showing a blend of physicality and play strength. In addition to his tough running, he has shown elusiveness. Also, he has blocked well for quarterback Justin Fields. The NFL game has not been too big for him so far.
Johnson is happy with the way he’s played but still knows that with two players ahead of him he has more to prove.
"Play by play, it’s coming along. I don’t think I’m behind. But at the same time, I’ve got a lot to prove. It’s trending in the right direction. Positive signs. I’ve still got to take it a day at a time and keep chipping away."
While Johnson’s running has been good so far, he knows that he can be an asset in the passing game without even catching a pass. He worked to become an even better pass blocker, knowing that the players at the pro level are bigger and faster than those in college.
That work ethic really impresses the coaching staff. Johnson shows that he wants to be a complete back and be a three-down back. Herbert is not a good blocker so Johnson could cut into some of his snaps. Foreman is a fairly good blocker but Johnson could be a better one.
In the Chicago Bears’ second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts last week, the offense had a nice 17-play, 92-yard drive that took 9:25 off of the clock. On that drive, Johnson had runs of 10 and 14 yards. He also had a catch for 11 yards. He was key on that drive.
Johnson’s hard work has not gone unnoticed by head coach Matt Eberflus. As a result of his success in the Bears’ preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, Johnson received reps with the starters and main backups. That looks to continue after his game against the Colts. He could even see some snaps with the starters in the final preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Johnson could end up being the Chicago Bears’ starting running back at some point. The way he is playing, that could be sometime before the end of his rookie season.