Getting David Montgomery back wouldn’t fix everything about the Bears’ dreadful ground game, but the assumption is that he certainly would help.
Assumptions are all anyone can make about Montgomery after a season and a half because any definitive evaluation is nearly impossible, given how bad everyone around him has been. There are few, if any, running backs who could thrive behind the Bears’ makeshift offensive line.
Last time Montgomery was on the field, he managed only 30 yards on 14 carries against the Titans on Nov. 8 before leaving with a concussion. He missed the next game but was back at practice Monday.
That doesn’t mean he’s out of the concussion protocol, however, and coach Matt Nagy didn’t specify his status. But it signals he’s likely to play Sunday at the Packers.
For a team that ranks 31st in yards per carry (3.6), 32nd in rushing yards per game (78.2) and runs less often (33.7% of its plays) than anyone in the NFL, the Bears will take any help they can get.
‘‘Just that level of confidence and that toughness that he brings to the huddle and every time he touches the football,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He’s a complete team player. He’s all about ‘we’ and our team . . . so I’m excited to get him back.’’
Montgomery’s 3.6 yards per carry is the second-lowest among NFL players who have run at least 100 times. That average would be the worst by a Bear in 10 years and one of the 10 worst in franchise history by a player with at least 200 carries.
Since entering the NFL last season as a third-round pick out of Iowa State, Montgomery is last in the league at 3.65 yards per carry.
But that’s hardly all his fault. And he’s the best the Bears have.
Cordarrelle Patterson, a former receiver, played half the snaps and got three quarters of the running-back carries in Montgomery’s absence during the Bears’ 19-13 loss to the Vikings. He put up 30 yards on 12 rushes, lowering his season average to 2.9 yards per carry.
The Bears’ other options are undrafted rookie Artavis Pierce (three career carries for nine yards) and practice-squad veteran Lamar Miller. Miller played five snaps last week for his first action since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 preseason.
Montgomery’s return would shift the other three backs into their proper places. Patterson would get an occasional opportunity to give Montgomery a breather, and Pierce and Miller would be emergency options.
Of the four running backs, Montgomery comes the closest to offering the multifaceted threat Nagy wants in the backfield. He has 30 catches (for 212 yards), which puts him in a jumble of four players angling to become the Bears’ No. 2 offensive weapon behind receiver Allen Robinson.
While it’s obviously better to have Montgomery than not, he probably won’t make an enormous difference against the Packers. He has topped 80 yards twice but has totaled fewer than 50 five times this season. Before going for a season-high 89 yards on 21 carries against the Saints in Week 8, Montgomery averaged 3.1 yards per carry and 41.4 yards overall in the previous five games.
The Packers don’t have a great run defense, but they’re not a pushover, either. They’re 21st in yards per carry (4.4) and 13th in yards per game (113.7).
Vikings star Dalvin Cook, who ran for 96 yards last week against the Bears, ran 12 times for 50 yards against the Packers in the opener and 30 times for 163 yards against them three weeks ago. So it can go either way.
The Packers were strong against Montgomery last season, holding him to 57 yards on 20 carries and 37 yards on two catches in two games.
Then again, as bad as those numbers look, they could be a lot worse for the Bears without him.