Give Matt Nagy credit for saying he wants to use a committee approach when it comes to the running back position, but don’t be surprised if rookie David Montgomery is the bell cow before long. While the Bears have generally been trying to keep their depth chart a secret (and not allowing media members to report on the topic) it seems the rookie has already been getting playing time with the first team, a rarity for any mid-round running back.
Montgomery will still have to earn the job. Running backs, especially those in the 220-pound range, generally don’t show much until the pads come on; it’s impossible to display power and contact balance when the defense can’t hit. But by all accounts, Montgomery has looked the part, opening eyes the same way Tarik Cohen did two years ago, per Adam Jahns on the Hoge & Jahns Podcast.
Montgomery’s currently tied fifth favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. Third among non-QBs.
The Bears signed Mike Davis and it seems that he has gotten most of the reps with the first team offense this offseason. But in the most recent clips released by the team on their website, you can see Montgomery sneaking out of the backfield with Mitch Trubisky playing quarterback. Maybe those are just misleading shots, but they didn’t exist at the start of the offseason program, when even Ryan Nall was shown with the starters in one of the clips.
If Montgomery has already been as impressive as most have said without the pads, the general expectation is that he’ll be even better once they start hitting. After all, his strength is supposed to be his ability to play through contact.
Shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft, the Ryan Pace detractors were at it again, claiming the Bears GM “wasted” a pick by trading up to grab Iowa State running back David Montgomery.
The attacks, made by noted Pace-hater Bill Barnwell (among others), are more about Pace’s selection philosophy than his actual selections. Writers often like to live in a dream world where draft picks are more valuable than actually having quality players. Oh, and none of those picks should be used on a running back!
GMs live in the real world. They realize they have to acquire good players and can’t sit back and wait for life to happen to them. That is part of the reason why Phil Emery is a scout for the Falcons, not GM of the Bears. Of course, we shouldn’t expect Barnwell to understand that.
The case of Montgomery was especially delicious to critics because a running back many of them liked more — Alabama’s Damien Harris — went with Chicago’s original pick, 87 overall, to the New England Patriots. Why move up 14 spots to draft a worse player? Well, it’s pretty simple really: they liked Montgomery more. A lot more.
In years past, Ryan Pace drafted relatively raw players like Jonathan Bullard, Adam Shaheen, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, James Daniels and, of course, Mitch Trubisky early. He seemed to prefer potential over immediate production. The 2019 Draft was a stark contrast. With their first two picks — and only two in the first five rounds — the Bears drafted RB David Montgomery and WR Riley Ridley, players who should be ready to make an impact right away. This is a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl and in order to achieve that goal they’ll need everybody on the roster ready to play.
Neither Montgomery nor Ridley were necessarily explosive game breakers in college and surely won’t be in the NFL — both struggled to break 4.6 in the 40-yard dash — but they’re polished players. They both seem to have a natural feel for the game that should help them make an impact right away.
There is no question that third-round pick Montgomery has the body and all-around skill set to play in the NFL. While he may lack the explosiveness of the league’s elite backs, at 5’10”, 220 pounds, the Iowa State product is built for the NFL punishment. And he showed polish as a receiver in college, with solid route-running and soft hands.
A year ago the Atlanta Falcons draft Calvin Ridley to replace Taylor Gabriel, a free agent signing with your Chicago Bears. Now, somewhat ironically, the Bears may have drafted Calvin’s brother to do the same. Ridley likely won’t replace Gabriel as a rookie, but he shouldn’t have a problem winning the fourth receiver job and could move into a starting role sooner than later. (Anthony Miller should replace Gabriel in the Zebra role by 2020.)
The draft is over, and a lot happened that could impact this roster both in 2019 and beyond. Let’s take a look at the major moves made and put them into perspective.
Easily the biggest Bears move of the weekend. Not only was he the team’s first pick, but Ryan Pace showed just how much he valued Montgomery by trading up to get him.
As I mentioned last week, RB was clearly the biggest need on the roster going into the draft, and it was one of the few spots where a rookie could make an immediate impact. Accordingly, we should expect to see a lot of Montgomery on the field from pretty much day one.
In terms of fit, Montgomery is a textbook Andy Reid running back. He’s compact and well built, and has good agility, which is why he hit 3 of the 5 physical thresholds I’ve identified before (and came pretty close in the other two). In the run-up to the draft, there were many people who compared Montgomery to Kareem Hunt, who thrived in 2 years as the lead running back in a similar offense in Kansas City. Lou Ayeni, a running backs coach who worked with both Montgomery and Hunt in college, says that the comparison is valid, but Montgomery is even better as a route runner and pass catcher. That should have Bears fans extremely excited about Montgomery’s future in Chicago.
In terms of production, Montgomery was one of the most elusive running backs in college football. He led the nation in forced missed tackles last year, and had one of the highest rates of explosive runs of any back in the draft. These are all aspects that were missing from Chicago’s run game last year. Montgomery lacks top end speed, but is otherwise a complete package who is ideal for this offense, and thus I expect he’ll thrive here.
If you want to see more of an Xs and Os breakdown of what Montgomery can do, here’s Jacob Infante, one of the best draft guys in the Bears Blogosphere:
Here are a few players and positions to watch at the 2019 NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis:
The popular comparison for Montgomery has been Kareem Hunt, but there’s one major issue when I watch Montgomery: speed.
Montgomery backers are quick to point out that Hunt only ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, but I’ve never watched Hunt and thought he looked slow whereas Montgomery’s lack of burst is clear. He’s even gotten caught from behind a few times.
The Iowa State star’s game is breaking tackles, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to break tackles in the Big 12 than in the NFL. If he’s clocking in the 4.7s in the 40-yard dash and his vertical jump is in the low-30s, it’s a clear sign that he doesn’t just look slow, he is slow.
Here is why I’m concerned about Montgomery’s speed. Not sure he has the breakaway gear. But, again, I’ve just started. pic.twitter.com/Fis6eBpjd0
— Andrew Dannehy (@adannehy) February 13, 2019
Anderson tore his ACL early in the season so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to do all of the drills.
Even if he isn’t, Bears fans should keep an ear (or eye) for reports on his medical condition. Anderson has had several major injuries in college but is clearly a Round 1 talent. Although they’re different positions, Anderson’s story isn’t unlike that of Eddie Jackson.
Because of where the Bears picks are, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact prospect here.