Montgomery looks the part. At 5-foot-11, 216 pounds, Montgomery has the build of a three-down back. The former third-round pick out of Iowa State possesses all the necessary backfield traits: power, speed, vision and reasonably good hands.
Yet, seemingly each week, just when Montgomery appears set up for a breakout performance, the final numbers often are not commensurate with the talent level.
Since entering the league in 2019, Montgomery ranks 46th in yards per rush (3.7), 15th in rushing yards (1,136), tied for 23rd in rushing touchdowns (seven) and ninth in rushing attempts (305), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Montgomery rushed for 29 yards (one touchdown) on 10 carries in Chicago’s Week 5 victory over the Bucs. As a team, the Bears managed a paltry 35 net rushing yards.
Against the Colts in Week 4, Montgomery finished with 27 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
The coaching staff has never pinned blame on Montgomery. Quite the contrary. Montgomery is viewed more as an innocent bystander. The Bears have not run the football effectively since coach Matt Nagy’s first season in 2018 when Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky combined for 1,800 yards.
Montgomery ran for 889 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie.
Through six games in 2020, Montgomery has rushed for 247 yards and one touchdown.
“David and I talked [after the Tampa game] and talked over the weekend,” Bears running backs coach Charles London said. “It’s just staying with it. Every game is not going to be the way we want it to be and I just really pointed out to him, look, the run game wasn’t where we wanted it to be Thursday night.
“But I think he was targeted nine times, seven receptions, I believe if that is correct, and sometimes you got to win games in different ways. I said, ‘It’s not going to be a 100-yard game every week and sometimes you’re going to have to go out there and catch 10 passes for us to win. You’re going to have to go out there and throw great blocks for us to win.’ David is a team player and he understands that. Obviously, he wants to get going in the run game but he understands that he can help this football team in many, many ways.”
To London’s point, Montgomery was involved in arguably the play of the game last week. Late in the fourth quarter -- with Tampa in front 19-17 -- Montgomery ran a wheel route out of the backfield and caught a 17-yard pass from Nick Foles to set up Cairo Santos’ game-winning field goal.
“In that instance, David did a great job because he was actually in protection on that play, as well,” London said. “He had to check his protection and his guy wasn’t coming, so he knew he had to get out quickly because he knows there is a good chance Nick is going to dump the ball down to him. So, he checked his protection, was able to get out and he knows if he is open there is a chance he is going to get it. Nick put the ball on him and David did a great job of finishing. I think he made a guy miss and kind of spun off him there for the extra yards. That’s just a little bit of what he can do for us in the pass game.”
Montgomery had another important catch in the second quarter that kept a Chicago drive alive and ultimately ended in a touchdown. Plays like those sometimes are overlooked, but they are often the difference between winning and losing. The Bears have reinforced that positive outlook to Montgomery -- and the offensive line -- as they prepare for Carolina in Week 6.
“The biggest thing is just all of us understanding that, hey, this is the NFL and there are a lot of great teams and great players,” Nagy said. “None of us can get frustrated with the last two weeks, the amount of struggle that it’s been, numbers-wise, to run the football. I really believe in these guys. I really think that we can only get better offensively."