I know a lot of Chicago Bears fans have already moved on from David Montgomery as the the team’s primary running back, but he’s still very much a big part of what they plan on doing in 2022. He has the type of all-around skill set that makes him ideal for Luke Getsy’s offense, and while he may not flash the top end speed some look for in an outside zone tailback, the Bears won’t be exclusively running outside zone.
If fact Getsy’s previous team, the Green Bay Packers, ran more inside zone in 2021 than any other running play, and they also led the league in inside zone runs. The Bears will mix things up quite a bit in 2022 to get Montgomery some reps going outside, some carries going inside, but he’ll also be a factor in Chicago’s run pass option (RPO) game.
And even if they did feature a healthy dose of outside zone and stretch plays, the running back isn’t always running to the sideline. He’s looking for the first opening to stick his foot in the ground and get upfield, something Montgomery’s vision allows him to do.
Montgomery is also the best pass blocking back on the roster and a viable option out of the backfields in the passing game. He was third on the team the last two years in total receptions.
“We’re going to stress those guys and stretch their role,” head coach Matt Eberflus about Chicago’s running backs last month via NBC Sports, “Meaning that, can he (Montgomery) run the whole gamut of the passing tree? Which, you know, it looks like he can. What kind of routes is he good at? How’s the timing of that? Can he beat guys one-on-one consistently? Is it a safety or a linebacker that’s covering him? Can he do that? It’s a positive way for that guy to do that, if he can beat all those guys — DBs and linebackers — and we feel he has the skill set to do that.”
The Bears will move him around the offense to find mismatches, but I’m also excited to see how Chicago’s screen game will come together.
I’m sure they’ll want to mix in Khalil Herbert with plenty of touches each week, and veteran free agent Darrynton Evans and rookie Trestan Ebner will each be battling for playing time too, but D-Mo is going to be the guy for at least one more season.
“Talk about motor and mean, yeah, he is that guy,” Eberflus said this offseason via ESPN. “Serious, a pro, worker — he’s going to be exciting to work with, and he’s going to fit right in. He’s the kind of guy who just says, ‘Hey, watch me go. I’m not going to say a whole bunch of things, but just watch me do my job.’”
A good running game will help second year quarterback Justin Fields a ton. It’ll keep a defense honest, help wear down a pass rush, and it will allow Fields to get into a rhythm where he’s not expected to win games all by himself. He’ll no doubt need to show some dynamic play making ability if the Bears are going to buy him as the long term franchise QB, but smart football teams ease young quarterbacks into things.
The new Shanahan-like offense is quarterback friendly, but it starts with the running game.
“Justin will be a much better quarterback if we can be productive running the football,” running backs coach David Walker said via ESPN. “That’s going to open up a lot of stuff for him.”
While running the ball successfully isn’t necessary to aid a play action passing game, Fields showed a penchant for making plays on play action passes a season ago. A good running game from Montgomery and his fellow backs will also open things up on the backside for read options and bootlegs from Fields and his 4.44 speed.
While Montgomery’s contract status is a topic of discussion amongst fans wondering if the Bears should or shouldn’t extend him, it’s also something that will be on the player’s mind as well. At just 25-years old there is an avenue for Montgomery to cash in with a new multi-year deal if he has another productive all-around season. It may not be in Chicago, but someone will want a football player the caliber of Montgomery.
So with a healthy chunk of the game plan dedicated to the running game in 2022, and with him playing for his NFL livelihood, I’d expect Montgomery to have his most efficient year ever.