David Montgomery Not Running With Opportunity

Montgomery has averaged 3.3 yards per carry this season.

Chris Emma
November 25, 2019 - 7:35 pm
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- It was late last fall when the Bears began scouting college running backs in earnest. They were searching for Jordan Howard's replacement with Howard still on their roster. 

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The Bears' hope was to find a more natural fit for coach Matt Nagy's offense, and one of their most intriguing prospects was Iowa State's David Montgomery, who rushed for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading the nation with 99 missed tackles forced in 2018. Chicago made Montgomery its top draft pick by taking him in the third round last April. 

A year after the Bears were first captivated by Montgomery's potential, the rookie hasn't found the same success at this next level. 

"Everybody's good," Montgomery said. "Everybody has a lot of talent. Just being able to take what you get. It's not as easy as it is in college, but it's definitely good to be out there with some guys that I grew up watching."

During the Bears' loss to the Saints on Oct. 20, Montgomery rushed twice for six yards as the team rushed a franchise-low seven times. Nagy then took ownership of the nonexistent rushing game during a team meeting and vowed to change it. He was eager to get Montgomery more involved.

One week later, Montgomery rushed 27 times for 135 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Chargers, and it seemed he was fully established in the offense. That didn't prove to be the case.

In the last four games, he has rushed 58 times for 153 yards -- an average of just 2.6 yards per carry. In a win against the Giants on Sunday, Montgomery rushed for 13 yards on his first carry of the game but finished with just 22 yards on 13 carries.

Montgomery has rushed 156 times for 519 yards this season. After Nagy found himself drawn to Montgomery's fit, have his expectations been met?

"He’s (everything) and more," Nagy said. "I’m very happy with where he’s at. Love the kid to death. I think he has a really bright future."

The struggles of the Bears' rushing game aren't just on Montgomery. They're collective and shared by the offense as a whole, and an inconsistent offensive line hasn't helped matters.

But what do the Bears have in their backfield? That answer isn't clear just yet.

The Bears traded the former Pro Bowl back Howard in March to clear up a spot on the depth chart that ultimately went to Montgomery. They felt Howard wasn't what Nagy needed in the backfield and traded him to the Eagles for a conditional sixth-round pick.

Howard has rushed for 525 yards and six touchdowns on 37 fewer carries than Montgomery this season, with an 4.4 yards-per-carry average. Of course, Howard has one of the NFL's top offensive lines blocking for him.

Meanwhile, Montgomery's 3.3 yards per carry rank 31st out of the 32 running backs with a minimum 100 carries in 2019.

"I haven't been doing as good as I can be doing," Montgomery said. "I definitely have some room for improvement, just so I can help my team and my offense out."

The Bears signed veteran running back Mike Davis in March to be the complement to gadget back Tarik Cohen and the rookie to be drafted a month later, Montgomery. Nagy never attempted to make Davis a part of his offense, rushing him 11 times for 25 yards before the Bears released him after seven games and just 71 snaps on the field. 

Running back Ryan Nall was promoted to the active roster with his special teams value in mind instead of seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr., who was recently claimed by the Steelers off the Bears' practice squad.

The Bears dealt Howard, cut Davis, lost Whyte and have given Montgomery every opportunity as their running back. Now, they're still waiting to see the coveted prospect break loose.

Injury report: Tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion), receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), offensive tackle Bobby Massie (ankle), defensive back Sherrick McManis (groin), tight end Adam Shaheen (foot) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow) didn't practice during the Bears' walk-through work Monday at Halas Hall.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.