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Dannehy: If Bears Sincerely Like Montgomery, Expect Extension

| April 13th, 2022


If the Chicago Bears actually like David Montgomery, you can bet they’ll end up paying him.

The team will likely wait until after the season, though that could be a mistake if they’re able to get their running game going. While fans have argued about if Montgomery is good enough or if any running back should be paid, in general, the fact of the matter is teams who run the system the Bears are going to run usually end up paying their running backs.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay where the team spent a second-round pick on AJ Dillon and then paid Aaron Jones a contract that averaged $12 million per year. That wasn’t an exception to the rule. Other running backs from the same system who have gotten large contracts include Dalvin Cook, Todd Gurley, Jerick McKinnon, Arian Foster, Davonta Freeman and Derrick Henry. The Cleveland Browns paid both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The people who run this offense value running backs, even if fans do not. The question isn’t if they’ll be willing to pay a running back, it’s if they’ll be willing to pay Montgomery.

Getsy didn’t say much when he was introduced; at one point he even questioned the idea of what a playbook is. Head coach Matt Eberflus was effusive in his praise of Montgomery when he met the media at the owner’s meetings.

“You talk about motor and mean, yeah, he is that guy,” Eberflus said. “Serious. A pro. Worker. He’s going to be exciting to work with, and he’s going to fit right in. He’s the kind of guy that just says, ‘Hey, watch me go. I’m not going to say a whole bunch of things, but just watch me do my job.'” Eberflus has spoken about adding more running backs to the mix, but it’s clear he likes Montgomery. A lot.

Perhaps it’s just offseason talk or a smoke screen; we can’t really rule anything out right now. But if Eberflus is sincere, and Montgomery plays well in 2022, he’s going to be in Chicago beyond next season.

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David Montgomery is an Inefficient Running Back.

| February 3rd, 2022

Bears running back David Montgomery has one year remaining on his rookie contract, meaning he is eligible for an early extension if the Bears want to give him one. After George McCaskey specifically praised Montgomery and linebacker Roquan Smith (who is also looking to get paid this offseason) at his end of season press conference in January, many fans speculated that both were about to get paid.

On the surface, an extension could make sense for Montgomery. Since entering the NFL in 2019, he is 6th in the league in carries, 9th in rushing yards, and 12th in rushing touchdowns. But those are volume stats and say nothing about Montgomery beyond his ability to stay healthy and handle a heavy workload. Today I want to take a closer look at Montgomery’s efficiency to see if he is a good running back or just a running back who gets a lot of touches.


Overall Efficiency

Let’s start with a general look at Montgomery’s overall efficiency, measured both in yards/carry and rush yards over expectation/carry (RYOE/carry).

RYOE/carry is a new stat in the last few years, and it’s based on both the position and the movement of all 22 players on the field at the time of handoff. Basically, it projects how many yards an average NFL running back would get in a given carry based on historical data, and then compares how that specific running back did on that play. All RYOE/carry stats are pulled from Tej Seth’s website mfbanalytics.

The table below shows Montgomery’s yards/carry and RYOE/expectation marks for all three of his NFL seasons. It also compares him to the average NFL running back each season, looking only at backs who get 150 or more carries on the year (close to 1/team, so roughly starting NFL running backs).

A few thoughts:

  • As you can see, Montgomery has not generally been very efficient. He ranks in the bottom half of all starting running backs in both yards/carry and RYOE/carry in all three seasons.
  • You could try to explain away a poor yards/carry mark by pointing out that Chicago’s offensive line, offensive scheme, and offense as a whole have been bad for Montgomery’s career. Those are fair points, which is why I didn’t just want to look at his yards/carry mark when evaluating Montgomery. If that is bad but his underlying metrics are good, it would indicate a good running back trapped in a bad offense.
  • RYOE, however, doesn’t support that idea. This stat in particular is intended to isolate the running back’s performance, since the expected yards mark takes into consideration where every other player (both offense and defense) is at the time of handoff, as well as where they’re moving. Therefore, this should remove scheme and the caliber of talent around you from being a significant factor. Consistently underperforming your RYOE mark is an indication of a below-average running back.

Explosion and Consistency

It feels weird to call David Montgomery a below-average running back. Just writing that is jarring. After all, we’ve spent three years cheering for him and loving how he runs. So maybe there’s something else out there that can highlight what Montgomery is good at.

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Bears at Lions Thanksgiving Game Preview, Vol. III: Predictions!

| November 24th, 2021


There are only two possible outcomes for this game.

Outcome #1. The Bears win and nobody cares. (Maybe some young players flash and that will be exciting, but honestly, who cares?)

Outcome #2. The Bears lose and it becomes impossible for Matt Nagy to coach the team for the remainder of 2021. (Honestly, I’m not sure Nagy or Pace will still be employed Friday if this is the result Thursday. When I floated the scenario to someone in the building they responded with the simple, “Buckle up.”)

Three predictions:

  • David Montgomery has 24 carries for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • Robert Quinn adds another 1.5 sacks to his ledger, bringing his total to 11.5 on the season.
  • Matt Nagy avoids a midseason firing with an ugly win in front a national audience. And he will hear about it loudly from the Soldier Field faithful on December 3.

Chicago Bears 20, Detroit Lions 16

 

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Justin Fields Gets His First Win as Chicago Bears Quarterback: Rapid Fire Recap

| October 4th, 2021


This is a game of two emotions.

The Positive, First.

Justin Fields was excellent. Yes, he made some rookie mistakes, mostly regarding his clock in the pocket. But this was the kind of game you love to see from a talented rookie. He kept his eyes down the field. He went through his progressions. He extended plays with his legs. But most importantly, he made several, SEVERAL, absolutely gorgeous throws. There is no questioning the ability of this player. If he develops as the Bears hope, their future involves a star quarterback.

(There will be plenty of time to talk more Fields as the week progresses.)

The Negative, Second.

Everything about David Montgomery’s knee injury – his reaction, the reaction of teammates, the refusal of TV to show it a second time – leads one to believe it’s unlikely he’ll be on the field again this season. This is a devastating blow for the 2021 Chicago Bears. If you were someone who hoped this team would compete for a postseason spot, this injury should relegate those hopes moot.

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So That Happened.

| September 14th, 2021

In David Mamet’s State and Main, Alec Baldwin plays a movie star with a penchant for young women. In the middle of the movie, he flips a car, climbs out the window, looks at Phil Hoffman, and nonchalantly says, “So that happened.” It is quite literally one of my favorite moments (and lines) in movie history.



The inevitable car wreck to open the 2021 Chicago Bears season took place in Los Angeles Sunday night. And as I turned off the television I was left with the same sentiment as Baldwin, climbing out of a comfy living room chair in Greenwood Lake, NY to toss an empty bottle of Labatt’s in the recycling bin.

So that happened.

I felt nothing about it. No emotion whatsoever. And not feeling any emotion about a Bears game actually filled me with sadness. In my game preview I had written what I thought would transpire Sunday night, predicting an outcome of 30-13 Rams. The game played according to that script. The offense was a little bit better; the defense a little bit worse. 34-14 Rams. (The most surprising aspect to the whole evening was the performance of David Montgomery and the offensive line in the run game.)

Now the Bears are left to deal with the damage.

Their stopgap, 39 year-old answer at left tackle isn’t going to hold up. The fifth-round pick that replaced him might not either.

The secondary is one of the two or three worst in the sport and can’t survive unless Khalil Mack dominates opponents. (Mack hasn’t dominated many during his Chicago tenure.)

Eddie Goldman has mysteriously vanished into injury again.

Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton and the Bears have decided to use his backup – a far superior player – for a series of moronic gadget plays sprinkled into the sea of dinks and dunks.

The Bears are bad.

Okay, so you don’t want to go that far?

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Training Camp Diary: Montgomery Gains Speed, Mooney Gains Confidence, Ogletree Gains.

| August 9th, 2021


The Bears practiced Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here are a collection of thoughts and ruminations.

  • David Montgomery has been a good running back. But what’s kept him from being a great running back is his lack of breakaway speed. Too often Montgomery gains 15-20 yards on runs that should be 70-yard touchdowns. Adam Jahns (in The Athletic, of course) discusses Montgomery’s clear speed gains this summer: “It was also a run where Montgomery’s speed training from the offseason appeared to factor in. The surprising thing wasn’t that Montgomery broke tackles; it continues to be how fast he’s eating up yardage when he is in the open field.”
  • The NFL will not allow us to embed their YouTube content on our websites – a decision that literally makes zero digital sense. So if you want to see Jimbo Covert’s Hall of Fame speech, go over there and see it.
  • Cairo Santos saved his NFL career in 2020 with the Chicago Bears. Adam Hoge profiled that season quite nicely for NBC Sports.
  • Take everything you hear in training camp with a grain of salt, but the praise being poured out for Darnell Mooney is coming from everywhere. One reason for the excitement is Mooney actually fits what Nagy wants to do offensively better than a player like Allen Robinson. (Another reason the Bears are reluctant to throw top five money at Robinson.) Won’t surprise me if Mooney’s numbers exceed ARob’s this season.
    • From Wikipedia: “Hypotheses of the phrase’s origin include Pliny the Elder‘s Naturalis Historia, regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison.[2] In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken “with a grain of salt”, and therefore less seriously. The phrase cum grano salis (“with a grain of salt”) is not what Pliny wrote. It is constructed according to the grammar of modern European languages rather than Classical Latin. Pliny’s actual words were addito salis grano (“after having added a grain of salt”).”
  • Matt Nagy said he “feels better than worse” about Roquan’s injury. Here’s my question: why speak like this? The whole league does it and it makes no sense. Here’s how coaches should talk about injuries. Player X has a problem with his Y and we expect him to return in around Z days. What other details are required? Why do we need a non-medical professional’s feel for the situation?

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ATM: Regardless of QB, Bears Need Better Running Game

| June 22nd, 2021

Whether it’s Andy Dalton or Justin Fields at quarterback, the Bears are going to have to help them out by running the ball.

The Bears found success at the end of last year. David Montgomery ran for 598 yards and six touchdowns in the team’s final six games. Over a full season, that would’ve been monstrous production, but the first nine games happened too. In those, Montgomery failed to reach 90 yards and only averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry twice.

That’s not necessarily Montgomery’s fault. Injuries and inconsistencies along the offensive line are largely what put the Bears in the Nick Foles-era tailspin. The Bears have been aggressive in fixing issues with depth and top-line talent, but there’s still a matter of actually being productive in the rushing attack over a full, 16-game season.

It may have been unrealistic to expect Juan Castillo to fix the running game out of the gates, considering they didn’t have an offseason program or a traditional training camp. By the end of the season, it was clear that the coach’s message was getting through and he had nearly every player competing at a level they had not yet reached in their careers. The Bears emphasized a bigger, more physical style of player at the line of scrimmage, with the idea that Castillo can coach them up. With a projected rookie starter at left tackle and questions on the right side of the line, he’ll have to do just that.

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Examining Chicago’s Personnel Usage/Tendencies on Offense in 2020

| June 1st, 2021

Like I’ve done the last few seasons, I want to explore how the Bears deployed their skill position players on offense in 2020 to see if there are any trends or tells for which opposing defensive coordinators can look. These are tendencies Chicago’s coaches should be aware of and look to rectify in the future.

The table below shows changes in run percentage when skill position guys who played between 35-65% of the snaps were in the game vs. on the sideline.

  • On the high end, that excludes players who played more than 75% of snaps, because their “off-field” splits would be too small to consider. That was only Allen Robinson in 2020.
  • On the low end, that excludes players who played less than 25% of snaps, because they are often mainly in the game in specific situations, where a run or pass may be expected (i.e. the 4th WR in a 4 WR set for 3rd and long, or the 2nd TE in a short-yardage set). This excluded Demetrius Harris, Cordarrelle Patterson, and a host of other role players who played a few offensive snaps.

(Note: This data is pulled from the NFL Game Statistics and Information System, which includes sacks and QB scrambles as passing plays.)

A few thoughts:

  • David Montgomery had pretty even splits when he was on and off the field. Therefore I won’t look at him any further when I split the sample into different personnel packages below.
  • This is a change from 2019, when Montgomery’s presence on the field made a run much more likely, and is almost certainly due to Tarik Cohen’s injury. In Cohen’s limited 76 plays before getting hurt, the Bears only ran it 29% of the time. He clearly had the passing downs role, and Montgomery absorbed that when Cohen got hurt.
  • Everybody else has fairly significant changes in how frequently the offense runs when they are on the field vs. off of it, which warrants further exploration.

Different Personnel Groupings

I was curious how much the personnel groupings might influence these splits, so I looked at how frequently the Bears run the ball in different groupings. Generally, there are five skill position guys (WR, TE, RB) on the field for a given play, so I split the sample up by how many of them were wide receivers.

The more WR the Bears have on the field, the more likely they are to pass. That makes sense, but the significant difference in run frequency here means we’re going to have to look at each of these groups individually to see how players really impact the run/pass ratio when they are on the field.


3+ Wide Receivers

Let’s start with plays featuring 3 or more WRs, which means there are 2 total TE + RB. The most common setup here was 11 personnel, which features 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR.

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The Roquan Smith Game: Rapid Fire Reaction to Bears 41, Jags 17

| December 28th, 2020


Playoff scenario is clear. If the Bears win Sunday, they are in. If the Rams beat the Cardinals, the Bears are in. Simple as that. Somehow the team that many of us left for dead after an absurd collapse against the Detroit Lions is alive and well and living in January.

Some thoughts on Bears 41, Jaguars 17.

  • Yes, Trubisky is going to have several moments in almost every game that leave the world scratching their collective heads. But Mitch’s stat line for the season is now 1,803 yards, 16 TDs, 7 INTs, 95.3 rating. His 2018 stat line was 3,223 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs, 95.4 rating. This is what he is as a player and the Bears can win with that.
    • Until yesterday, I had never seen a quarterback attempt a Hail Mary from the 10 yard line. But that’s exactly what Trubisky did. How do you coach this out of a player? Is it even possible?
    • But it’s difficult not to be impressed with his bounce back drive coming out of the half. He had one incomplete pass, was pinpoint accurate and used his legs to get six. His short memory is becoming a real asset.
    • So is his hard count.
  • Was Roquan Smith motivated by his Pro Bowl snub? After a slow start from the defense, Roquan delivered his most dominant performance as a Bear. It will never make any sense that this franchise – which hasn’t had a franchise QB in sixty years – consistently churns out Hall of Fame inside linebackers. Oh and hey, I have a crazy idea! Maybe we should wait to choose who makes the Pro Bowl until after the season is actually over? If voting started today, Smith walks onto the Pro Bowl roster.

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  • The Bears’ identity on offense is quickly becoming clear: they are tough to tackle. David Montgomery. Cole Kmet. Even Darnell Mooney. These guys almost never go down on first contact. This has become a physical group.

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ATM: Offense is Terrible, But Did We See Signs of Improvement Sunday?

| November 4th, 2020


None of it was pretty. But 23 points and roughly 330 yards was about the best anybody could have or should have expected from the Chicago Bears offense on Sunday. That is a sad statement. But it is our current reality.

Already with a bad offensive line, the Bears got worse up front early in the game when Bobby Massie went down. His replacement, Jason Spriggs, is a backup for a reason, and a backup on this offensive is most likely a third stringer elsewhere. The Bears ended the game with an offensive line that included two UDFAs (one was a defensive lineman three years ago), a seventh-round pick turned average veteran, a second-round bust and a first-round bust. Some teams can win with a bad offensive line. A team with Nick Foles at quarterback can’t. To their credit, the Bears battled and scored 23 points against a Saints defense just hitting its stride.

The offense wasn’t good enough by NFL standards, but it could have been good enough to win Sunday. If the Bears defense plays to their potential, the same type of performance could also be good enough to win enough games down the stretch.

Could this have been a performance upon which to build?

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