Bears at the Bye: Montgomery, Cohen struggling to meet expectations

Bears at the Bye: Montgomery, Cohen struggling to meet expectations

Previous: Quarterbacks

When the Chicago Bears selected running back David Montgomery in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft, it was assumed he'd take over lead-back duties on offense and provide coach Matt Nagy with the kind of do-it-all player he had in Kansas City when Kareem Hunt took the league by storm.

Instead, Montgomery is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and is entering the bye week following back-to-back games of under three yards per attempt. He's flipped 69 carries into just 225 yards, a total that ranks 29th on the NFL's rushing list.

Not great.

Montgomery's struggles are more complicated than just his per-carry production. The Bears' offensive line has been brutal through five games and isn't providing any clear running lanes to navigate through. Montgomery is being met by defensive linemen and linebackers at or behind the line of scrimmage on a great majority of his carries, and while he certainly runs hard and with a will to win, he's at a major disadvantage because of the turnstile up front. Of his 225 rushing yards, 149 have come after contact.

Still, Montgomery deserves some of the blame for the running game's struggles. He ranks 71st among running backs on Pro Football Focus this season with a 58.6 grade. He's looked very much like a rookie runner at times, lacking patience and making one move (usually a spin move) too many. 

But there's no denying that the success — or failure — of the ground attack will rest on Montgomery's shoulders. They're a good set to lean on; he has the character, work ethic and natural talent to be one of the NFL's most productive running backs. He just needs what every running back requires: an effective offensive line.

As for the other running backs on this roster? Tarik Cohen has been solid when given a chance to touch the ball. He has just 17 carries through five games and has done most of his damage as a receiver and return man. Cohen is second on the team with 20 catches for 128 yards and a receiving touchdown.

An argument could be made for Cohen to get more touches as a runner while the offensive line figures itself out. He's known for making chicken salad out of, well, not chicken salad, and that's the kind of spark the running game could use at this point. Nagy just hasn't tilted in that direction yet.

Then there's Mike Davis, the veteran free-agent signee who's settled into his role as the primary reserve early in the season. He has just nine carries for 22 yards this year and only one carry over the last two games combined. The Bears could do much worse than Davis as Montgomery's backup, but he doesn't offer an upgrade at this point. Barring injury, he's likely to remain in his role as a breather-back.

Overall, Chicago's rushing attack has left a lot to be desired, but it's for more reasons than just ineffective running backs. There's a very high ceiling with this group, led by Montgomery who has all the traits the Bears could possibly want from their feature back. He just has to start proving that those traits translate well to the NFL, even when his offensive line isn't at its best.

Bears RB grade at the bye: C

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First and Final Thoughts: The Giants are beatable ... right?

First and Final Thoughts: The Giants are beatable ... right?

Not unlike Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky, it's Year 2 of First and Final Thoughts. Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis talk about what's on their minds between games.

Final Thoughts on Week 11

J.J. Stankevitz: Since we've talked and written so much about Mitch Trubisky and the circumstances of his removal from Sunday's game, let me take this in another direction: Matt Nagy no longer appears to trust Eddy Piñeiro. For the second time this year, Nagy had his offense try to convert a fourth-and-long instead of attempting a long -- but not incredibly long -- field goal. Opting against having Piñeiro attempt a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter to try to convert that fourth and nine was bizarre, and does not bode well for Piñeiro's future even if the Bears aren't bringing anyone for tryouts just yet. 

Piñeiro has made 12 of 17 field goals this year, but has missed his last three attempts dating back to his wide-left game-winning attempt against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8. Perhaps more than anyone not named Trubisky, Piñeiro needs to turn things around in the final six games of 2019 to keep his job in 2020. And if he doesn't start making his kicks quickly, he might not even get six more games this year. 

Cam Ellis: It was great seeing Roquan Smith play well against the Rams. Everything else about the Rams game was such a mess but he was making more plays than anyone else on the field Sunday night. His issues don't even make it onto the podium of most-discussed narratives this season, but it'd be a nice silver lining to see him finish the season strong after how it started. Danny Trevathan is week-to-week apparently (!?), but the Smith-Nick Kwiatkoski duo did pretty well in their first game together. It'll be interesting to see how quickly the Bears work to rush Trevathan or Akiem Hicks back if they've already lost 8-9 games by December. 

First Thoughts on Week 12 

Stankevitz: The Giants don't do anything well, ranking 27th in both offensive and defensive DVOA and entering the weekend with the same record as the Miami Dolphins. There's a legitimate chance the Giants play themselves into the second overall pick (again) if they wind up losing to the Dolphins at home and Washington on the road on Dec. 15 and 22, respectively. 

Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 pick in 2018's draft, has gained 29 yards on his last 27 carries. 29 yards! Maybe the off week will have helped Barkley's balky ankle get better, but as long as the Bears can stop him from making an impact, they should cruise to a comfortable win against a truly awful football team on Sunday. 

Ellis: Yeah, what J.J. said. Taking any NFL game for granted is an easy way to look stupid, but the Bears are a much better team than the Giants. If there's a Tampa-2018 game in store for the Bears this season, it's this one. They're dying to hit on some big plays, too. 

Could Georiga's Jake Fromm be the Bears' Drew Brees?

Could Georiga's Jake Fromm be the Bears' Drew Brees?

If you've paid attention to the conversation surrounding Bears general manager Ryan Pace's decision to draft Mitch Trubisky over DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft, you've learned that Pace's preferred quarterback prototype is future Hall-of-Famer, Drew Brees.

Pace felt like Trubisky exhibited some Brees-like qualities at North Carolina, both on and off the field. 

“Every time he got in the game,” Pace said after selecting Trubisky, “something happened in a positive way.”

Unfortunately, positive results have been hard to come by in 2019. Trubisky hasn't taken that next step in his development and despite back-to-back decent games against the Lions and Rams, questions remain about whether he'll be the Bears' quarterback in 2020.

If Pace and coach Matt Nagy decide it's time to move on, or at the very least add some competition, Georgia's Jake Fromm could be a logical second-round target in the 2020 NFL draft. In fact, an argument can be made that Fromm has a more Brees-like resume than Trubisky ever did.

"When you look at Fromm, if he's there at 45 (Bears' first of two second-rounders), and the Bears are stuck with this roster that they have Trubisky coming back this year, you have to have someone that is just more calm, more composed," Bleacher Report's Connor Rodgers said on the Stick To Football Podcast." Somebody that can control the offense, somebody that can give Allen Robinson a chance in this offense. I would take the swing on Jake Fromm if I was Chicago."

Fromm will have his critics if he declares for the NFL draft this year. He isn't the best athlete, he doesn't have the strongest arm and there's nothing about his game film that suggests he's a surefire NFL starter. In other words, he'll probably end up with a grade very similar to Brees when the former Purdue star entered the draft in 2001.

Brees was selected at the top of the second round, No. 32 overall, by the San Diego Chargers.

Fromm's box score won't blow you away. He's completing 65 percent of his passes for 1,948 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions this season, but he's a gamer. He rises up when the Bulldogs need him most, much like Brees did during his college career. He's also an extremely accurate passer, which is a trait that quarterbacks either have or they don't. Most of Trubisky's struggles tend to be a result of his poor mechanics and off-target throws; Fromm is the anti-Trubisky when it comes to both areas of his game.

There's a lot of time between now and the 2020 NFL draft, but Fromm is a name to watch if the Bears decide to dip into the quarterback pool this April.

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