Why David Montgomery looks like a perfect fit in the Bears' offense

Why David Montgomery looks like a perfect fit in the Bears' offense

A central theme of the Bears’ roster-building over the last 15 months has been the conviction with which general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy operate. Pace and Nagy had conviction on their vision for David Montgomery long before Friday night’s trade to move up 14 spots and draft the Iowa State running back. So that made the move to trade away some draft capital to land an offensive weapon in which the brain trust had conviction an easy decision. 

“He's just a well-rounded back,” Pace said. “It's everything you look for in a running back, starting with his instincts, his vision, his ability to make people miss. He's just a well-rounded player. Good hands. He fits the offense very well.”

Balance what Pace said Friday night, in the aftermath of drafting Montgomery, with what Nagy said two months ago at the NFL Combine, when he was asked what he was looking for when scouting this year's crop of running backs in Indianapolis. 

“In this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss,” Nagy said. “And at the same time, there's that balance of being a hybrid being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you're not one-dimensional. That's not easy.”

And then compare that against what Montgomery said when asked to describe his skillset as a running back. 

“My strength is, I'd say, my ability and my motor not to go down, being able to make people miss and being able to catch the ball,” Montgomery said. 

So not only drafting Montgomery, but trading up for him, passes the smell test when all three of these evaluations line up. The Bears didn’t want to risk losing a guy who checked all their boxes. 

Montgomery led all FBS players with 99 missed tackles in 2018, per Pro Football Focus, an impressive statistic Pace believes can carry over to the NFL. Making that tackle-breaking and tackle-missing skill more appealing is Montgomery’s ability to hang on to the ball — he only fumbled three times in 695 touches at Iowa State. Some of his best highlights are a masterpiece in shedding or juking opposing defenders: 

While Montgomery doesn’t possess top-end speed (he only had two runs of 30 or more yards, and none going for 40-plus), his ability to generate 10-yard runs is important for an offense that moved on from Jordan Howard, who only had 18 such runs in 250 attempts (7 percent) last year.

Montgomery profiles as a more dynamic weapon, too, than Howard, who always felt like a sub-optimal fit in Nagy’s offense. Montgomery’s pass-catching upside is important to note here, from his “natural hands,” as Pace said, to the team believing he can develop into a good route runner. 

The Bears need better production from their running backs in 2019, hence why the entire room save for Tarik Cohen has been turned over in the last two months (near the bottom of the depth chart, it may have been noteworthy that Pace mentioned 2018 practice squad’er Ryan Nall by name on Tuesday and not incumbent 53-man roster member Taquan Mizzell). The end goal is to give Mitch Trubisky more with which to work than he had last year, and in Montgomery and Davis playing next to Cohen instead, the Bears believe they’ve accomplished that. 

“Any weapons we can surround him with and I think right now we continue to add weapons, they're all different, a lot of different variety and fortunately we have a coaching staff that can fully utilize those guys,” Pace said. “So already all the coaches are up there right now just talking about different packages they can use, so that's exciting.”

The last aspect of Montgomery’s fit with the Bears that deserves mention is the high character the Bears — and just about every draft analyst — sees in him. The Bears see Montgomery as an excellent fit in a strong locker room culture, the kind of guy who can thrive on and off the field in Chicago. 

“There’s incredible stories about his work ethic,” Pace said. “Going up to the facility late at night and bringing teammates with him to watch additional tape and get extra work in. You just hear one thing after another about his professional approach to the game, how important it is to him and his work ethic is off the charts. And how infectious that was to the entire team (at Iowa State).”

The real work for Montgomery and the Bears’ coaching staff will begin next weekend for rookie minicamp, and then continuing into OTAs, minicamp and training camp. There’s a long way to go before Montgomery becomes a part of the Bears’ solution to the biggest question of the offseason: How does this offense improve from being an average-is one in 2018?

But for now, we’ll leave you with a tantalizing comparison/profile multiple draft analysts have drawn to Montgomery: Kareem Hunt. 

Matt Nagy was non-committal on whether the Bears would have someone at Colin Kaepernick's showcase

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Matt Nagy was non-committal on whether the Bears would have someone at Colin Kaepernick's showcase

When it was announced that the NFL would be hosting a showcase for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, with invites sent to all 30 teams, speculation on the legitimacy of the event – and which teams would send scouts – ran rampant. 

When asked about whether the Bears would be sending someone to Atlanta to watch Kaepernick, Matt Nagy remained non-committal. 

"I honestly have no idea right now," he said. "I’m just kind of focused in on where we’re at. I’ll leave that up to Ryan [Pace] and those guys. I know they’ll have a handle on that.”

It's been three years since Kaepernick has played in the NFL, as the quarterback last appeared for the 49ers back in 2016. Kaepernick and Eric Reid filed a collusion suit against the NFL that accused the league of blackballing both of them over taking a knee during the National Anthem. The suit was settled before going to trial, but Kaepernick's still had trouble getting the attention of teams looking for quarterback help. Pundits have frequently linked Kaepernick to the Bears – who are certainly not set at the quarterback position – but any real interest in signing the free agent remains to be seen. 

"It’ll be interesting. He’s been out of the game a little bit but when he was doing well and playing he definitely was a weapon," Nagy added. "I’ll be curious to see how he does. I have no idea. Again, for me, I wish him the best and all that and you always root good for people but from where I’m at right now personally we’re so focused in on the Rams.”

If anyone knows how to handle the Jalen Ramsey Experience, it's probably Allen Robinson

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If anyone knows how to handle the Jalen Ramsey Experience, it's probably Allen Robinson

Rams' cornerback Jalen Ramsey likes to talk. In fact, Rams' cornerback Jalen Ramsey likes to talk a lot. 

The All-Pro corner, who was traded from Jacksonville to Los Angeles a few weeks ago, is famously opinionated and notoriously loud about it. Just ask Allen Robinson, who was the one to line up against Ramsey when he first entered the league in 2016. Both started their careers with the Jaguars – Robinson as a second round pick in 2014 and Ramsey as the fifth overall selection just two years later. It'll be the first time they've played one another. 

"It's going to be physical, it's going to be competitive, it's going to be fun," he said on Wednesday. "I'm definitely looking forward to it ... I talk, he talks, so it'll be fun." 

Ramsey figures to shadow Robinson throughout most of the game on Sunday, or would at least like to if he got his way. His in-game bravado – which sometimes overshadows the fact that he's the NFL's best cornerback – oftentimes throws receivers for a loop. It may be a unique challenge to NFC North receivers, but it's nothing new to Robinson. Whether it's showing up to training camp in a literal Brinks truck or publicly criticizing the quarterback of the team he now plays for, his audacity has never wavered. 

"Yeah, from the time he was in Jacksonville, we've had a lot of one-on-one's between me and him," he said. "From the time he got drafted. I definitely enjoyed it. It's always fun to go against good competition." 

"You better have confidence in this league playing corner and he's got ultimate confidence," Matt Nagy added. "You see part of his game is talking and there's some guys that do that, some that don't. Some guys that do it can't play, he can do it and can play. So you give respect to that guy. He matches a lot of the number one receivers and so I, we'll know where he's at." 

They don't keep in touch, but Robinson gave a lot of credit to Ramsey and the rest of that 2016 Jacksonville secondary for helping him turn into the type of Pro Bowl caliber receiver that earned him a three-year, $42 million contract with the Bears.

"Being able to play against him and A.J. Bouye for a couple years – and now going against Prince [Amukamara] and Kyle [Fuller] – I think it's always good to play good competition each and every week," he said. "You spend a lot of time with those guys in OTAs and Training Camp doing one-on-ones, and really fine-tuning your game." 

Robinson's generally considered a mild-mannered guy, but did say that knowing Ramsey so well, and vice-versa, may make the competition a little more spirited than normal. He's expecting a lot of physicality on the sidelines – where Ramsey does some of his best physical and mental work – and talked about how Ramsey's length affects the catch point on a lot of Robinson's routes. Whether the two are mic'd up or not remains to be seen, just don't expect any of it to affect Robinson. 

"You know, I know him too," he said. "So I would give us both an advantage."