David Montgomery just feels more comfortable.
The rookie running back’s vision, which the Bears praised upon in trading up to draft him in the third round, has adjusted to the speed and violence of the NFL.
“It increased and it improved for me, just because the whole game and the whole presence of the NFL kind of, like, slowed down,” he said. “So being able to see everything slow down is just good to see. I definitely have just been getting better throughout the year.”
The numbers say so, too.
In the last two games, Montgomery has rushed for 161 yards on 36 carries — an average of 4.47 yards per carry and 80.5 yards per game.
In his first 11 games, he ran 156 times for 519 yards — a 3.33 yards per carry and 47.18 yards per game average.
“I’m starting to see it the way I need to see it,” he said. “I’m sure that I’m paying attention to the details and handling it when I need to handle it.”
Even though he fumbled against the Cowboys — the Bears were up 17 with 18 minutes to play, and he insisted on fighting for extra yards — Montgomery has put together the best two-game stretch of his young career. He had a career-best 135 rushing yards against the Chargers, but bookended the performance with six yards against the Saints and 40 against the Eagles.
“Dave has always had great vision,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s always been able to run through tackles. And I like where he’s at.”
Running backs coach Charles London noticed a difference on Thanksgiving against the Lions. The first time he came to the sideline, Montgomery told him he foresaw a star performance.
“He said, ‘I’m feeling it today, I can see it,’” London said. “I know he’s getting more and more comfortable. He’s doing good things each week.”
Long past the time where first-year players hit the “rookie wall” — college teams only play 12 games each season — Montgomery is starting to look even stronger.
“With him seeing the holes, I think he did a good job, especially the last two or three weeks of just seeing how the line’s blocking and getting a feel of how the game’s going,” London said. “Getting a feel for how the runs are being blocked.”
Nagy wouldn’t single out Montgomery when asked about the growth of the Bears’ run game — the same way he wouldn’t isolate quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s play when the passing attack struggled.
“Just right now, what the feel is with our offense is that it’s not just the running back, it’s not just the quarterback, it’s not just the O-line — it’s everybody,” he said. “[It’s] just kind of syncing right now.
“Even myself as a play-caller, you start to feel stuff that you like, things that feel right, concepts that are working and then everyone is just worrying about themselves, they’re not worrying about each other and then you put all that together and you have success.”
Nagy, though, wouldn’t take a victory lap for finally finding a running-game rhythm that had escaped him this season — and last year, too. He said he’ll have a greater feel for the plays that work best for Montgomery “as we get more tape — a full year under our belt.”
London said that Montgomery is happy with 20 carries, or six catches, or just blocking for Trubisky. Still, the Bears traded Jordan Howard and drafted Montgomery because they felt the latter better fit their scheme.
Montgomery is finally starting to look the part.
“I think he’s gotten better each week,” London said.