The Bears drafted David Montgomery thinking he’d be a dynamic rushing and receiving threat out of the backfield, and that hasn’t fully materialized. That’s partly on Montgomery, who is still developing as he goes into his third season, but he also hasn’t gotten a great opportunity yet.
Throughout his two seasons, the Bears have been wildly inconsistent on the offensive line and at quarterback, and there have been ample questions about coach Matt Nagy’s inclination to run the ball. Montgomery would never raise those issues publicly, but there’s no doubt those would be challenging circumstances for any running back.
The Bears hope it’ll be a more favorable scenario this season. They believe they’ve solidified at least the three spots in the middle of the offensive line and brought in a more stable quarterback in Andy Dalton. Nagy is also talking about getting Montgomery 20 carries per game, but he has talked about running more before.
“It’s very doable,” Nagy said. “And when you look at where David has been the last couple of years, getting him the football is a good thing. He can make a lot of people miss.
“When you’re able to get in that fourth quarter and you have the lead and you can hand the ball off to David Montgomery, that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, we haven’t been in that situation enough in the past two years, so it’s limited him a little bit with carries.”
Whether the Bears truly have answers on the line and at quarterback and whether they ever have a fourth-quarter lead are beyond Montgomery’s control. For his part, he looks at his 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns last season and knows he can exceed it.
“Of course, because I know myself and how good I can be,” he said.
While that production was very good by recent Bears standards — they hadn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2017, and wide receiver Allen Robinson was the only other player to put up 700-plus yards from scrimmage — his 4.3 yards per carry ranked 29th in the NFL.
He was better, though, as a receiver and jumped from 25 catches, 185 yards and a touchdown as a rookie to 54, 438 and two last season. He was fourth in yards receiving among running backs.
“I proved that I can catch the ball, but I have so much more that I can improve on,” he said. “But it’s like beating a dead horse telling you what I can do. I’m just going to go out there and show it.”
The bar is high. Matt Forte had 477 yards receiving as a rookie and averaged 61 catches for 516 yards over his eight seasons with the Bears.
Montgomery is doing everything he can to get to that level and already feels “a lot looser, a lot shiftier” than he did in training camp last year because of putting in extra time in the offseason to perfect his running mechanics.
He also has made good use of Dalton’s experience. Mitch Trubisky was still a fledgling player himself, whereas Dalton has 142 starts and more career snaps than Trubisky, Nick Foles and Chase Daniel combined.
“He’s definitely big on making sure that everybody’s on the same page, and if you need something, ask him,” Montgomery said. “I’ve asked Andy so many questions you would think I’m the cops or something. I’m just trying to sharpen my game and … I’ve never seen somebody come in and be so vocal and work as much as him.”
And Dalton’s cool with being pestered all the time?
“He ain’t told me to shut up yet, so I’m good,” Montgomery said.
That’s probably because Dalton knows how much he’s going to need Montgomery. With so much uncertainty going into this season, a dangerous running back would make a huge difference.