Tarik Cohen is listed as the Chicago Bears’ starting running back, but David Montgomery figures to get a bulk of the carries and even some looks out of the backfield as a receiver.
And why not? This is what he can do:
The David Montgomery hype is real!
Montgomery’s preseason debut had everyone GUSHING about his potential. Gil Brandt, a Hall of Fame talent evaluator, loved what he saw from Montgomery in limited action. We couldn’t get enough of his college tape and drooled over college highlights. He can’t get enough of watching Walter Payton highlights (and frankly, neither could we). There are a ton of good vibes surrounding Montgomery ahead of the season opener. And soon enough, he will get a chance to display his talents in a meaningful game that will kick off hours from now between the Bears and Packers at Soldier Field.
The Bears traded up in the third round and used the pick to draft Montgomery and make him their first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. But in an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Terez Paylor, Nagy said he considered Montgomery to be a first-round talent. That isn’t going to slow down the type train at all, but it got us to thinking about what could be expected out of Montgomery in his rookie season.
Montgomery was one of the more highly touted running backs in his draft class. With the ability to run between the tackles and outside the numbers, break tackles in the open field, and catch passes while running routes of the backfield, there were plenty of reasons to like what Montgomery brings to a ball club. And yet, because running back has become a devalued position as teams rotate through them often, Montgomery’s draft stock slid (just like everyone else at the position). But that doesn’t mean we should tamper expectations.
Over the last five years, there have been 10 rookie running backs to rush for at least 900 yards. Eight of those backs surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier, including Jordan Howard with the Bears in 2016 and Kareem Hunt (while operating in Nagy’s offense) in 2017). There are reasons to believe that Montgomery could play his way into a workhorse back role like Hunt and Howard, but the likelihood of that happening is up in the air so long as Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis are in the rotation to snag carries away from him.
Perhaps a more fair comparison for what we could expect from Montgomery is what Saints fans saw from Alvin Kamara as a rookie. Kamara shared time with Mark Ingram in the New Orleans backfield, but still managed 728 rushing yards (6.1 yards per carry), added 826 receiving yards, and tacked on 347 kick return yards for good measure.
In total, Kamara racked up 1,554 scrimmage yards (or 1,901 all-purpose yards) as a rookie. To be fair, those numbers are on the high end of the expectation scale. HOWEVER, there have been 26 rookie running backs since 2014 who have gained at least 800 scrimmage yards in their first season. That group includes the likes of Melvin Gordon, Kerryon Johnson, Joe Mixon, Duke Johnson, and Sony Michel. At the top end of that group sit 13 players who picked up at least 1,000 scrimmage yards as rookie rushers. And while Saquon Barkley (2,028) and Ezekiel Elliott (1,994) put up magical seasons, a player of Montgomery’s stature could realistically reach what Christian McCaffrey (1,086), David Johnson (1,038), and T.J. Yeldon (1,019) did as rookies.
If things go well for Montgomery, he will provide versatility and a tick more of an explosion than what Howard did last season. But if everything breaks right? Oh, baby. Well, you saw the highlights above … right?