Chicago Bears should just let David Montgomery be their lead back

The Chicago Bears may look to add another running back, but it’s hard to see the logic of not letting David Montgomery be the clear-cut lead guy.

The Chicago Bears notably regressed across the board last season, led by the exposure of quarterback Mitch Trubisky on the offensive side of the ball. The running game was also dismal (91.1 yards per game; 27th in the league), as David Montgomery fell short of expectations during his rookie season (889 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per carry) behind a lackluster offensive line.

In 2018, when the Bears’ offense was clicking, their pass-run split was nearly equal (48 percent rush rate, 52 percent pass rate). Last year, with a nod to trailing more often, that split became 41 percent run and 59 percent pass.

Montgomery had 242 carries last year (tied for 13th in the league), but even with negative game scripts in mind he was underused. He had more than 18 carries in a game five times (20 or more carries four times), with two in the first five contests and two in the last four. He surely had more to offer as a pass catcher, with just 25 receptions (on 35 targets) for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Tarik Cohen was second on the Bears in catches (76) and targets (104) last year, and since he offers little else his role in the passing game is not going away. But he had three fumbles on 143 touches in 2019, while Montgomery had two fumbles on 267 touches. Montgomery also outdid Cohen in yards per target by a good margin (5.3 to 4.4). A tilt toward Montgomery would seem to be an effective order. Cohen was also credited with nine drops last year.

Montgomery had the eighth-highest percentage of his team’s red zone carries last year (64.7 percent). Nick Foles, if only theoretically, is an upgrade over Trubisky under center if he wins the starting job. That should bring a more efficient offense, and more opportunities.

In a recent mailbag column, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune dismissed a concern about the Bears need to add a veteran back. Carlos Hyde is among the notable backs still available, but his presence is probably more of a hinderance to another back that’s in place than particularly helpful.

Taking significant snaps away from Montgomery would be foolish. He already didn’t play enough last year (57 percent of the snaps), and didn’t touch the ball enough (42.7 percent of his snaps without a touch, according to Rotowire). But Bears head coach Matt Nagy looks more like Brad Childress than Andy Reid as an offensive mind, and the run-pass balance is sure to still be askew with an ineffective distribution of work.

Even with what might work against him, Montgomery feels like a lock to push toward (if not pretty well beyond) 300 touches this year. It doesn’t have to be complicated, even if Nagy will still try to prove how smart and innovative he is.

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