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Bears need RB David Montgomery to step up workload after Tarik Cohen injury

Matt Nagy wanted to diversify his running game this season, but now he’ll need to streamline it with Montgomery as the focal point.

Montgomery has gotten 60% of the running-back carries after taking 72% of them last season.
AP Photos

The days of patiently easing into the role of workhorse running back are over for David Montgomery. His supporting cast in the backfield has been trimmed to converted wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and former practice-squad players Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall.

It’s time to carry the load, which is something the Bears thought he could do when they used their top draft pick — a third-round selection — on him in 2019.

“David is only going to keep getting better and possibly [get] more carries,” coach Matt Nagy said.

One of Nagy’s goals for the running game was to diversify it, but he’ll have to revert to a more streamlined attack with Tarik Cohen out for the season.

Montgomery got 60% of the running-back carries in the first three games, down from 72% last season. His share likely will jump to somewhere around 80% Sunday against the Colts at Soldier Field.

For comparison, NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry has gotten 92% of the Titans’ running-back carries, and several other top backs are bearing 80% or more of the load.

While the Bears want Montgomery to develop as a receiver, too, he’s not going to replace Cohen in that facet. He caught 25 passes last season and has six receptions in this one, compared to 85 receptions by Cohen in the same span.

“I’m not really here to fill a void,” said Montgomery, who averaged fewer than two catches per game in his college career. “I’m just here to come in and play what I need to play and go out and do me and bring whatever I can to the table.”

The Bears will add former Pro Bowl running back Lamar Miller to their practice squad, a source said, and give him a chance to compete against Pierce and Nall for a spot on the roster. Miller, 29, has two 1,000-yard seasons and ran for 973 yards in 2018 before missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

The Colts allow 93.3 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) and 4.0 yards per carry (10th).

Mystery man returning punts

Speaking of Cohen, the Bears are intent on surprising the Colts with his replacement as the punt returner.

Wide receiver Anthony Miller filled in against the Falcons, but the team could consider rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney, veteran Ted Ginn or someone way off the board.

“We have a good idea who it’s gonna be, but just out of pure respect and gamesmanship, I’m not gonna get into who it is,” Nagy said.

Imagine the chaos in Indianapolis as the Colts try to figure out who it’ll be. The only sure thing is they don’t have to worry about Patterson, a standout kick returner.

“I don’t return punts, man,” Patterson said Thursday.

Mostly clean injury report

The Bears figure to have everyone except veteran safety and special-teams virtuoso Sherrick McManis for the Colts game. He has been out with a hamstring injury since the Atlanta game.

Star outside linebacker Khalil Mack was limited all week again because of an ongoing knee injury and is listed as questionable, but he’s nearly certain to play.

Robert Quinn, his pass-rush partner, practiced in full for a second consecutive week and seems to be over his ankle injury.