Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy downplayed what seems like an obvious storyline out of the NFL Draft: After trading running back Jordan Howard and drafting Iowa State running back David Montgomery, the Bears have the right pieces in place for quarterback Mitch Trubisky and Nagy’s offense to take a quantum leap in 2019.
If they’re right, the 5-11, 211-pound Montgomery will have the vision, patience, elusiveness, hands and versatility to excel in Nagy’s offense. He’ll be a threat out of the backfield Howard rarely was. He’ll be a three-down back who doesn’t tip Nagy’s offensive hand.
‘‘You feel great about it,’’ Nagy said after the Bears completed the draft Saturday. ‘‘But . . . to us as coaches, it’s more about the time than it is necessarily the players.
‘‘But any players you can get at every position, we’re going to try to get more and more competition and get better and better and figure out what our strengths are. You see the names, specifically of the players that are now on our offense, and there’s a lot of weapons. There’s a lot of guys who can do a lot of things with the ball.
‘‘So when you are a defensive coordinator and you need to focus on more than one or two or three people — which I feel like we have the ability to do — that’s an advantage for us. So between now and the first game of the year, we’ve got to figure out how we want to do that.’’
Montgomery wasn’t particularly prolific in the passing game at Iowa State. He had 22 receptions for 157 yards and no touchdowns last season. In fact, he didn’t score a touchdown on any of his 71 receptions (for 582 yards) in three seasons with the Cyclones.
But Montgomery’s potential in the passing game figures to allow Nagy to attack and confuse defenses with multiple weapons more than he could do with Howard.
‘‘It’s about mismatches,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You take a guy out of the backfield . . . is it a safety [defending]? Is it a linebacker? Are they playing base defense vs. a guy that we think we can get an advantage in the pass game? Great. Are they gonna play nickel or dime and dare us to run the ball? Well, when you have guys who can play all three downs, it’s nice for the play-caller.’’
You almost can see Nagy’s mind working in anticipation of playing with what he hopes will be a new toy in 2019: a maturing offense headed by Trubisky that has enough options to put the same kind of heat on the opposition the Bears’ top-rated defense does.
Too soon for that? We’ll see. But the Bears were hoping to make a big jump in Year 2 of Nagy’s offense just based on experience. With Montgomery and receiver Riley Ridley, a fourth-round pick the Bears couldn’t resist, Pace has given Trubisky an even better chance to make it happen.
‘‘We’re always mindful of that,’’ Pace said. ‘‘The more weapons we can supply to the quarterback and to our coaches, the better.’’
As much as Nagy probably wants to tamp down expectations, he couldn’t avoid the obvious comparison between Montgomery and Kareem Hunt, the third-round pick who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in the Andy Reid/Nagy offense in 2017.
‘‘Yeah, there are some similarities, for sure,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘The size of them. You see how they run between the tackles. They are physical. They run angry — both of them. But he’s going to be his own person. He’s going to be David Montgomery, nobody else.’’
All things considered, that’ll work. In fact, that’s just what the Bears were looking for when they traded Howard: a back who runs like Hunt and acts like Montgomery.