David Montgomery was touted as the next best running back, a mix of some of the most explosive and exciting runners. He has the feet of the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the vision of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Le’Veon Bell, the strength of the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, and the athleticism of the New England Patriots’ Sony Michel, a now-infamous TV graphic said.
The Chicago Bears could justify trading up to select Montgomery in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. They had to replace Jordan Howard and Montgomery, a two-year starter from Iowa State, had it all.
Montgomery was shy of the illustrious 1,000-yard mark in his rookie season, finishing with 889 rushing yards. He fell just inside the top 20 of all backs and had the 14th-most carries (242) in 2019. His move from college—where he recorded an FBS-record 99 missed tackles in 2018 and rushed for more than 1,110 yards in his last two seasons—to the pros might not have been as dynamic as many thought, but it was still fairly successful considering the offense he entered. The Bears were near the bottom of the league in total rushing yards (27th) and yards per game (29th), and while Montgomery struggled at times during his first year—especially when it came to finding any type of rhythm behind Chicago’s offensive line and getting plays called in his favor—he sat among some of the backs he was compared to.
The Bears entered the 2020 season with a new focus on the rushing attack and came out of training camp manifesting that on the stat sheet.
“[Offensive line coach] Juan [Castillo] and I have had conversations already about the formations we would like to use in the run game for our opening game of the season,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor told reporters prior to the start of the season. “It's our job, when your title is coordinator, you have to make sure it all fits.
“You have to make sure the run game, the pass game, the play-action, the drop-backs, the screens, they all fit.”
Chicago opened the year with at least 130 rushing yards in its first three games. The Bears were 3-0 and… good, but a string of injuries to their offensive line, including center Cody Whitehair and guard James Daniels and meager offensive play, especially from the backfield, set the team back. Now, Montgomery faces his own injury concerns.
Head coach Matt Nagy confirmed Montgomery was in concussion protocol Monday. Montgomery suffered a hit with just over five minutes left in the game and the Bears facing a 14-point deficit. He was evaluated on the sidelines and never returned. Chicago lost its third consecutive game in the 24-17 defeat Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
It was one of the Bears’ worst games of the season, which is frightful when you think of just how disastrous this offense has been as of late. Chicago has one of the league’s worst offensive units, averaging the fourth-fewest yards per game (318), and the worst rushing attack. The Bears are averaging a league-low 82.3 yards per game on the ground.
Prior to leaving with an injury, Montgomery had 30 yards on 14 carries. It was a very scanty performance after a season-best game in Week 8. The Bears finished Sunday with 56 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry; this was now the fifth time in Chicago’s last six games it rushed for less than 65 yards. This onus isn’t solely on Montgomery, but he is far from the back Barkley, Bell, Elliott, and Michel are. It seems Chicago doesn’t have an answer for its running woes. The Bears are hoping their problems will work themselves out with enough time and hard work.
“It’s going to happen at some point,” Lazor said before the team’s Week 7 matchup. “I fully expect to come out of it, whatever funk we’re in as far as our run-game production this week.”
This, of course, didn’t happen.
If Montgomery does miss time by failing to clear concussion protocol, the Bears will look to Cordarrelle Patterson, a converted wide receiver who has been more effective as a pass-catcher (with 105 yards on 17 receptions) than rusher (with 88 yards on 29 carries). Second-year back Ryan Nall and 2020 undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce are also options.
This, however, doesn’t answer for Montgomery’s overall ineffectiveness, at least not when as much thought was put into his usage—even if the execution has been lacking. If and when Montgomery is healthy, he’ll need to emerge out of the backfield near the same level as the backs he’s been mentioned with to help the Bears out of this rut. At the moment, that scenario appears unlikely.
- Dec 01, 2022
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