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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume III, Proposed Role & Contract

| February 2nd, 2023

Proposed Montgomery Role

Based on everything we’ve seen so far; we can say this about David Montgomery’s NFL profile:

That has a place on an NFL roster, but it should not be as an every down back who gets 200+ carries a year, which has been his role for the last 4 seasons. A ratio of 201 carries to 41 pass targets, like Montgomery saw in 2022, makes him a net negative for the offense, but he could be valuable if used correctly. The Bears last year insisted on using all of their running backs in an every-down situation, rotating them on a per-drive basis. The lead back (Montgomery if healthy) would play every snap for 2 drives, and then the backup would play every snap for 1 drive. This doesn’t play to either Montgomery or Herbert’s strengths, as it forces both to play in situations where they are not effective.

If the Bears insist on using both of their main backs on a per-drive basis, then they need to find a better runner than Montgomery to be their lead back. If, however, the Bears decide that they want to bring Montgomery back, they will need to reconfigure how they use their running backs. They can rotate them situationally, such that Herbert is naturally on the field in more run-heavy situations and Montgomery is naturally on the field in more pass-heavy situations, and thus use both their strengths better.

Take, for instance, this very basic situational split:

  • Khalil Herbert could play in more neutral situations that will favor the run:
    • 1st and 2nd down for the 1st 3 quarters, except the last 2 minutes of the 1st half.
    • When the Bears have a lead in the 4th quarter and are trying to run out the clock.
  • David Montgomery could play in situations that favor the passing game and short yardage runs:
    • 3rd and 4th down for the 1st 3 quarters.
    • The last 2 minutes of the 1st half.
    • When the Bears are trailing in the 4th quarter.

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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume II, Pass Game

| February 1st, 2023

This is the 2nd in a 3-part series looking at David Montgomery. In part 1, we saw that Montgomery is bad at running the football. Today, we’re going to explore his impact in the passing game. 


Receiving

Let’s start by looking at how effective each Bears running back is catching the ball. The table below shows a host of advanced statistics for Montgomery and Herbert, as well as how they compared to the 67 running backs who ran at least 100 routes in 2022. All data is from Pro Football Focus, and values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while values in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • This is a complete reversal from the running data. David Montgomery is one of the better receiving backs in the NFL, while Khalil Herbert is one of the worst.
  • Montgomery’s efficiency here makes sense. Even though he’s slow for a running back, he’s still faster than most linebackers, who are the defenders typically covering him. And when he does break a tackle, he doesn’t have the whole defense already flowing to him from nearby, so he’s able to pick up more yards. Throwing him the football is a way to get him the ball in space, which lets him take advantage of his strengths while minimizing the lack of speed that makes it hard for him to get to open space on a handoff.
  • I find it very odd that Montgomery saw so few pass targets considering how bad Chicago’s WRs were and how good he is as a pass catcher. And this isn’t just due to the Bears not passing much; Montgomery was solidly below-average in routes run/target, which means the ball didn’t go his way very often even when they did throw it.
  • Khalil Herbert is a mess here, which is why I don’t think the Bears can count on him as their primary running back going into 2023, regardless of how good he is running the ball.

Pass Blocking

Catching the football isn’t the only part of the passing game a running back impacts; they are also tasked with helping in pass protection. Let’s take a look at how effective Montgomery and Herbert were in this area, once again using PFF for statistics. Ranks are compared to 59 running backs with at least 25 pass blocking snaps, and once again top 25% values are highlighted in green, while bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • These are small sample sizes, so it’s hard to say too much definitively about the data. But I did find it interesting that Herbert was asked to block more frequently than Montgomery when they were on the field for passing plays, even though Herbert is a worse pass blocker. I am going to guess that is largely due to Montgomery being so much more useful as a pass catcher than Herbert.
  • I put blocking grades in here because there’s just not much data otherwise. I find it odd that Montgomery and Herbert had similar blocking grades despite Montgomery giving up 4 pressures on 54 blocking snaps, compared to 4 on 32 snaps for Herbert.
  • No matter how you look at it, Montgomery is an adequate pass blocker, but doesn’t seem like anything special. Herbert, on the other hand, seems to struggle here a bit as well.

Tomorrow, a potential role and contract for Montgomery.

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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume I, Run Game

| January 31st, 2023

After four productive years in Chicago, David Montgomery is now a free agent, which leaves the Bears in the difficult situation of trying to figure out how much they are willing to pay to keep him around. On the surface, he has the case to command a sizable contract. Since entering the NFL, Montgomery has 915 carries (6th in NFL) for 3,609 yards (10th) and 26 rushing touchdowns (15th). Montgomery has also contributed 155 receptions for 1,240 yards and 4 touchdowns, bringing his rookie contract totals to an impressive 4,849 yards from scrimmage and 30 TDs.

Of course, volume stats don’t tell the full story, so this week I want to take a closer look at David Montgomery’s performance to see if we can get a better idea of how good he is, and thus how large of a contract he might be worth. We’ll start today by looking at his contributions in the run game, follow-up tomorrow with a look at his role in the passing game, and finish with an examination of what a realistic free agent contract could look like.


Advanced Rushing Statistics

Volume stats are nice, but to really understand a player’s value, we need to examine their efficiency. Thankfully, we have a whole host of data available to us, including a number of advanced statistics.

Before we look at the data, I want to mention that RYOE is Rushing Yards Over Expected, which is 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. RYOE % is then the % of carries where a back exceeds the expected rushing yards.

The table below shows how Montgomery fared in a host of advanced rushing statistics compared to 48 running backs with at least 90 carries in 2022. Khalil Herbert’s statistics are also shown for good measure. All RYOE stats are pulled from Next Gen Stats, while yards before run, after run, and broken tackles are from Pro Football Reference. Any values in the top 25% (top 12) are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are in red.

A few thoughts:

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Three Things Bears Need to Do on Offense Over Next Few Weeks

| October 18th, 2022


By now, most fans have come to terms with what the 2022 season is going to be. And what it’s going to be is ugly. But this season won’t be a wasted one if the team drains every ounce of evaluative sweat out of this gym towel of a roster. What do they need to do short-term?

(1) Get Velus Jones into the offense. It is understandable to want his speed involved in the punt return game, but that experiment has failed with gusto. Jones brings a dimension to the offense – speed – that doesn’t currently exist. Oh, he’s struggling with the playbook? Adjust the playbook! You’re telling me Jones is incapable of running 3-4 go routes a game to take the top off the defense? You’re telling me he can’t consistently motion as a decoy? He’s the only player on this roster capable of turning a bubble screen into a 25-yard gain. Play him and commit to getting him five touches a game.

(2) Acknowledge David Montgomery is not your best running back. DBB’s Data has been all over this, for seemingly years, but it’s now obvious that Montgomery is not a better running back than Khalil Herbert. Is he more valuable in the passing game? Yes. And that should guarantee him a role in the offense. But if the Bears are considering giving Montgomery big money, they have completely lost the plot. (For the record, I don’t believe they are.) Start Herbert. Work Montgomery into the game. Start thinking about 2023.

Read Wood’s thread on the issue HERE.

(3) Get Sam Mustipher off the field / Alex Leatherwood on it. Move Lucas Patrick – if healthy – to center and bring the former Raider on to play guard.  It is time to start experimenting with this offensive line at just about every position but the two tackles, where the Bears benefit from seeing Braxton Jones and Larry Borom with a full season of work. Leatherwood’s early career has been a disappointment, but he plays with aggression and that aggression should work for this rushing attack. (And if Leatherwood doesn’t work out, stick Riley Reiff into the lineup. That’s still a move for the future as Patrick profiles better at center than guard, long-term.)


The Bears are seeing, with Kyler Gordon, the importance of letting young players play. Gordon looked like the worst corner in the sport for four weeks but has completely turned his season around. Get as many of these kids on the field as possible and keep them there.

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Dannehy: Opener Displays the 2022 Recipe for Success

| September 14th, 2022


If you are hoping, for the first time in your life, to see a Chicago Bears team air it out, the 2022 edition is unlikely to fulfill those desires. But there does exist an offensive recipe for this vintage to succeed and it was almost on full display Sunday. The defense will fly to the football. The offense will generate big plays in the passing game. The Bears will run it a ton. They did two of three successfully against San Francisco and laid the groundwork for the rest of the season, monsoon or not.

With a defensive head coach, the defense is probably going to remain the straw that stirs the drink. While that may bring a collective groan from Bears fans, it shouldn’t. If they can run the ball and Justin Fields can keep making big plays, they will be competitive each week. But perhaps the most interesting part of the postgame reaction, though, was Matt Eberflus saying flat out that the team needs to be better.

There were a number of blown coverages that Aaron Rodgers is going to take advantage of in Week Two, assuming his receivers catch the football.

Fields put the team on his back at times, but he also had one horrible interception and barely avoided a couple more – including on his first pass attempt of the game, a screen in which the ball was thrown high with several Niner defenders closing in. He has to learn from those mistakes in a way past young Bears quarterbacks haven’t.

While it was Flus’ first win, the coach wasn’t puffing a victory cigar. He has an eye on next week and the future of the team. We’ll see what’s cooking for the rest of 2022. The recipe looks simple enough.


Herbert v. Montgomery

The hottest take to come from Sunday’s game was that Khalil Herbert is better than David Montgomery. That is a conversation that has more layers than their yards per carry averages though.

There is no question that Herbert was better running with the ball on Sunday. He was decisive and got whatever yardage was available. Montgomery seemed to have a difficult time finding the line of scrimmage at times.

But there is another factor. While NFL GSIS shows Herbert as having the most positive influence on the Bears running game, he was the biggest negative in the passing game. Herbert’s struggles in that regard aren’t just about catching passes. He has also had issues as a blocker.

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Fields Takes the Stage: “Dress Rehearsal” a Rousing Success for Young QB

| August 28th, 2022


It’s hard to get excited for a “dress rehearsal” when the opponent announces none of their stars will play and several of your own stars won’t play either. They don’t have dress rehearsals for a production of Hamlet and let the Claudius and Gertrude sit them out. Nevertheless, we watch.

Quarter One.

  • Dante Pettis returns the first punt. He’s been reliable in that job this summer and he seems to have a solid spot on the roster.
  • Why does David Montgomery need preseason reps? We know how limited the shelf life of running backs is in the league. Why would you subject one to a single hit they don’t need to take?
  • Second drive for the offense provided a sense of how Getsy wants to approach the field. This is not an offense that will exist between the tackles. They want to use every inch, from sideline to sideline.
  • Justin Fields taking cheap shots in the preseason. That seems valuable.
    • Fields’ touchdown strike to Ryan Griffin was on a rope. The kid has a remarkable arm.
    • He also played an extremely composed quarter. He sat in the pocket. He surveyed the field. He delivered the football accurately.
  • Hard to really gauge what this defense will look like without seeing Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith out there. But they are checking all the boxes when it comes to intensity.

Quarter Two.

  • David Montgomery looks quicker, but there was no reason for him to STILL be carrying the football in the second quarter.
  • Fields to Pettis for the second touchdown. Another strike, after Fields looked all other options.
  • Never overreact to preseason action but Jaquan Brisker has some superstar potential. He’s as good in run support, pursuing the player, as he is in coverage, pursuing the football.
  • Fields throws a touchdown pass to a wide-open Cole Kmet. But the play was made by Fields’ patience. He had the checkdown early. But he didn’t take it. He allowed the play to breath. It did. Touchdown.
  • Really strong performance all around from Justin Jones.
  • Same for Kindle Vildor, who looks like he’ll have a significant role in the defense.

There is only one story of this half, and subsequently, game. The Bears saw what Justin Fields can be in this league. And what he can be is a top tier starting quarterback.


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Montgomery.

| August 5th, 2022

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Dannehy: Five Bears on Hot Seat in 2022

| July 7th, 2022


A new year, scheme and regime could have several players could leave some formerly key contributors looking for new jobs in 2023.

The new coach and general manager have nothing invested in the current players; surely a scary thought to some of the youngsters on the team. There are no certainties. Nothing is guaranteed. We thought John Fox and Ryan Pace were inheriting young talent like Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Both were gone before Fox’s third season. Matt Nagy was greeted by Jordan Howard and Adam Shaheen was supposed to be his Travis Kelce — neither made it to his third season.

In some of these cases, the players may be one-and-done if they don’t produce in 2022. In others, they might get a second year to prove themselves simply because their contracts make it difficult to move on. In any case, these players will have pressure to perform in 2022.


David Montgomery

Entering a contract year, Montgomery is an obvious candidate for this list.

The previous regime loved Montgomery because of the leadership he provides off the field and his versatility on it. (Eberflus has already praised Montgomery’s character.)

However, there have been some questions as to whether Montgomery fits this new scheme. He isn’t Aaron Jones-like, nor is he A.J. Dillon — the two running backs new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy worked with in Green Bay.

There is also some question about Montgomery’s talent level. His career 3.9 yards per attempt certainly doesn’t look worthy of a second contract and advanced statistics are somewhat mixed on his performance.

With the lack of playmakers available, Montgomery figures to have plenty of opportunities to make plays. The team needs him to be more efficient than he has been.


Cole Kmet

There’s no real reason to think Kmet won’t continue to improve, but that isn’t always how it works.

Kmet had rather exceptional production for a 22-year-old tight end, but there’s still questions regarding his receiving ability. He certainly looks the part physically, but his hands aren’t always reliable, and his routes aren’t always smooth.

The third-year Notre Dame product is a solid blocker and possesses good straight-line speed, but the Bears need him to create more big plays and find the end zone. (Throwing him the ball down there should help.)


Eddie Jackson

Jackson is finally returning to a scheme that keeps two safeties back and he needs to show that he can still attack the ball.

Once Vic Fangio left, Jackson’s position changed. He still played safety, but Chuck Pagano wanted to move him around more. That didn’t really work. Sean Desai liked to keep him back, but in a single-high approach with man coverage all around him. That didn’t work.

There’s truth to the thought that opponents have been avoiding Jackson, but we’ve also seen him fail to make plays that have been available.

The Bears might be tied to Jackson contractually through the 2023 season — it depends on how much dead cap space they’d be willing to eat. In any case, he turns 29 during the 2022 season and needs to show he can still play.


Trevis Gipson

Is Gipson a starter or a solid backup? That’s what the Bears need to find out in 2022.

Regardless of what happens with Robert Quinn in 2022, it’s a safe bet that the veteran won’t be on the team in 2024 and probably not in 2023. Do the Bears need to find one new starting defensive end before then or two? Al-Quadin Muhammad signed just a two-year deal and really should be a backup.

This Cover-2 scheme relies on the front four being able to get to the passer; the Bears need to know if they have defensive ends who can do that. Gipson flashed with seven sacks and five forced fumbles in 2021 after barely playing as a rookie. Can he build on that?


Justin Fields

Regardless of what anyone thinks the Bears think of Fields, nobody outside of Halas Hall actually knows.

Hell, they might not even know inside Halas Hall.

The hard truth is that, while he showed flashes, his rookie season did nothing to guarantee that he is going to be a franchise quarterback. The Bears certainly didn’t bet on him becoming one this offseason, unlike the last regime did with Mitch Trubisky.

Whether the Bears 2022 season is a success or failure is going to depend largely on Fields. If he can build off success of late last season, the team might be OK. If he can’t, they’ll have a very high draft pick and, very likely, will be looking at another talented quarterback prospect.

It’s fair to say the Bears haven’t given Fields the necessary tools to succeed.

It’s also fair to say that really good quarterbacks make the players around them better.

The worst thing that can happen — which is perhaps what the Bears have set themselves up for — is that they still don’t know what kind of player Fields is following this season. In that case, they’d probably jump on the opportunity to draft another top quarterback prospect and trade Fields.

But, make no mistake, the current long-term plan has to be for Fields to be the guy and he has the opportunity to make sure that is the case. We know he can make big plays; we need to see more consistency on the routine concepts.  His performance in 2022 doesn’t have to be judged by statistics; he needs to show leadership and the ability to come through for his team when it needs him the most. We need to see more performances like the one he had in Pittsburgh.

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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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