Bears

Expectations continue to be high for Bears running back David Montgomery

Expectations continue to be high for Bears running back David Montgomery

The importance of second-year running back David Montgomery's development in 2020 will be overshadowed (rightfully so) by the Chicago Bears' quarterback competition this summer, but regardless of who opens the season as the starter, they'll need a reliable and steady running game to bring Matt Nagy's offense to Level 202, albeit a year late.

Montgomery flashed a lot to get excited about as a rookie. His 'want to' was undeniable, even when running lanes were few and far between. He was relentless in his effort, even on short gains, which suggests he has the potential to be one of the league's most productive running backs if he gets even a little bit of help from his offensive line.

And that's why he was one of the players identified as a Year 2 breakout candidate by NFL.com.

"[Montgomery] had a solid rookie season (889 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns)," Jeffery Chahida wrote, "but he's capable of so much more with a better offense. The Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense last year, largely because embattled quarterback Mitch Trubisky struggled so mightily. That all could change if Nick Foles wins the job or simply pushes Trubisky to play at a higher level.

"Montgomery now enters this season as the only back on this roster who attempted more than 64 rushes last year, and the Bears didn't add another ball carrier in this draft. In other words, it's time for him to shine."

The Bears are taking a calculated risk betting on Montgomery as much as they have. Ryan Pace has gone all-in on the former third-round pick. If Montgomery fails, there are no realistic options on the roster to replace him. Tarik Cohen is who he is at this point — an offensive weapon who needs touches more than just carries. 

Ryan Nall? Artavis Pierce? Napoleon Maxwell?

Chicago's running back depth reads more like a practice squad roster than a group of players who can legitimately contribute on Sundays.

Assuming Montgomery stays healthy and Chicago doesn't add another running back over the next couple of months, he'll challenge to lead the league in carries in 2020. Last year's league-leader, Derrick Henry, carried the ball 303 times (an average of 19 times per game). Montgomery should easily hit that mark if the Bears are at least competitive this season.

If these numbers come to fruition, Montgomery will be more than just a Year 2 breakout player. He'll be a legitimate candidate to be the NFL's leading rusher.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

Now that you've clicked (thanks!), look away, Bears fans. 

In a newly-published, rankings-style piece from ESPN's Bill Barnwell, the Bears' offense once again finds itself in bad company. What stings about this particular post is that it has literally nothing to do with quarterbacks. 

Barnwell ranked all 32 NFL teams based on their 'offensive weapon' groups, and you know it's bad when it's faster to find the Bears writeup by manually scrolling down instead of using the provided hyperlink jump. Chicago's group came in 28th, which is certainly fair – albeit lacking much optimism – given 2019's performance across the board. Here's how Barnwell sees it: 

Allen Robinson deserves better than this. Having spent his entire career catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, he will get a comparative upgrade this season if the Bears start Nick Foles. The former Penn State star held up his end of the bargain a year ago, racking up 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns on 154 targets. Anthony Miller finished the season with 656 yards and averaged nearly 1.5 yards per route run, but drops and shoulder injuries have been a concern through his first two seasons, and the former second-rounder likely profiles best as a full-time slot receiver.

The other weapons on this roster all failed to live up to expectations, although much of that was due to injuries. (Tarik Cohen's seven drops on 103 targets are the exception.) Players like Cohen, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cordarrelle Patterson could be intriguing supplemental pieces in the right scheme, but it's difficult to count on coach Matt Nagy making the most of their ability. Free-agent signee Jimmy Graham's contract was universally panned, but even leaving the money aside, he was anonymous last season in a Packers offense desperate for a second receiving option and turns 34 in November. David Montgomery is the big hope for the Bears to climb up these rankings, but as a rookie, he was below average by every running measure I could find.

What's especially depressing is comparing this year's ranking with the previous two of the Nagy era. Going into 2018, the Bears' ranked 9th (!!) and last season they found themselves at 17. In a span of three years, Nagy's offense has managed to fall 19 spots in the eyes of one of the NFL's most prominent writers. Ultimately, is this all that important? Probably not! But it's a stark reminder that the Bears' offense has a whole lot to prove this season, and that goes way beyond the quarterback position. 

Trey Lance to the Bears? This 2021 mock draft thinks so

Trey Lance to the Bears? This 2021 mock draft thinks so

Barring some kind of career-year from Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles, the 2021 NFL Draft will likely center around quarterback for the Chicago Bears. And while that's not necessarily good news for Bears fans, it could be worse. Next year's draft class will have a handful of quality quarterbacks with first-round grades.

In the latest mock draft from The Draft Wire, the Bears spend their first-round pick on North Dakota State darling, Trey Lance. The FCS standout is the apple of Draft Twitter's eye during the first wave of summer scouting, with some respected draft analysts like The Athletic's Dane Brugler ranking him ahead of Ohio State star, Justin Fields.

The Bears use the 12th overall pick in this mock on Lance. By the time April rolls around, and assuming Lance stacks another productive season on top of his remarkable 2019 performance, it's unlikely he'll be around outside the top 10.

Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and a remarkable ZERO interceptions in his first full season starting for the Bison. But that's not all; he ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns, too.

At an estimated 6-3 and 224 pounds, Lance checks all the early boxes for a franchise quarterback prospect. If he does end up leapfrogging Fields for QB2, he'll be a top-five pick.

But here's the catch: we just don't know enough about him yet. His 2019 season was fantastic, but it's the only one he has on film. And it was against FCS competition, which makes his projection to the NFL more difficult. It's a slippery slope to use Carson Wentz as an example to support Lance's ability to make the jump to the pros. Players like Wentz are the exception; they're few and far between.

It's only July, and the mock draft landscape will change multiple times between now and April. But if Trubisky and Foles fail to deliver in 2020, all mock drafts will have the Bears picking a quarterback. The only question is how high will the Bears be picking in Round 1, and which quarterback (if any) falls to their selection.