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.