EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In the aftermath of the Bears’ preseason opener last week against the Panthers, coach Matt Nagy chided reporters for turning rookie running back David Montgomery’s seven-yard touchdown run into more than it was.
‘‘Yeah, it was good,’’ Nagy said last Saturday after reviewing the film of the game. ‘‘It was OK. You guys were blowing it up like it was some great run. It was just average. It was good. Jeez.’’
No doubt, Montgomery’s touchdown run was glorified, magnified and overanalyzed, a byproduct of the new era of preseason football in which starters sit and so little is defined that we’ll jump on any solid storyline and run from one end zone to the other with it.
In reality, as much as some of us ran with the Montgomery story, the Bears have been even more excited about his introduction to an offense they expect him to invigorate.
Montgomery’s inactivity in the Bears’ second preseason game Friday against the Giants at MetLife Stadium confirmed the obvious: Nagy is sure the kid is ready to go.
Montgomery sat out the game, along with every offensive and defensive starter. He has been running some snaps with the second-team offense in practice, but Nagy wasn’t about to take that chance Friday.
‘‘He’s done a good job in practice; we like what we’ve seen,’’ Nagy said after the Bears’ 32-13 loss to the Giants. ‘‘Those guys who we kept out, you saw who they were. That’s what we wanted to do for this week.’’
Montgomery and the starters might play in the Bears’ third preseason game next Saturday against the Colts — formerly known as the ‘‘dress rehearsal’’ — to get acclimated to the pregame process. But everything points toward a token appearance being all Nagy wants until the regular-season opener Sept. 5 against the Packers at Soldier Field.
With Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis also not playing against the Giants, it’s clear Nagy and the Bears are set at running back heading into the 2019 season. After trading leading rusher Jordan Howard to the Eagles, drafting Montgomery in the third round and signing Davis in free agency, the Bears have the running back group Nagy envisions for his offense to operate at peak efficiency. Cohen is the ultimate gadget back, and Montgomery and Davis also have the versatility to be threats in the passing game.
The game Friday was a chance for Ryan Nall and Kerrith Whyte Jr. to make their case for a roster spot. Nall (seven carries, 23 yards) gained 10 yards on a screen pass to set up a third-and-one, then rushed for 14 yards to pick up the first down. He gained three yards on third-and-two to pick up another first down en route to a Bears field goal.
Whyte (six carries, 10 yards, one touchdown) scored on a tough one-yard run in the third quarter after a seven-yard inside run to the goal line. He also had a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
But while the opportunity means everything to them, it was relatively inconsequential for the Bears. Their backfield is set. And Nagy feels pretty good about what he’s got.