David Montgomery's Big Next Step Is No Fantasy

Much like with Walter Payton or Thomas Jones, Bears' second-year back could anticipate yardage total climbing in his second season

David Montgomery's rookie season has received some real severe scrutiny both from unhappy Bears fans or pro football analysts.

Mostly, it's complaining from disgruntled fantasy football owners who thought he might be the new Matt Forte.

It makes you wonder what film they were looking at or if they're just looking to complain.

The end result of Montgomery's season was 889 yards on 242 carries, a modest 3.7 yards and only two runs of 20 yards or more.

Almost all running backs are going to go as their offensive line does, and last year this was just about nowhere. The Bears' running game troubles were well documented.

Still, Montgomery's efforts taken unto themselves do not constitute a statement either negative or positive. It was a start. That's it.

Coach Matt Nagy admitted earlier in the offseason to some frustration on his own end with not getting Montgomery enough touches.

"Well, I think like most players the more touches you get, and you saw some of that last year, the more comfortable they get," Nagy said. "It's like a shooter. The more they shoot, the more rhythm they get into. He's a very talented kid. I love his hunger. We talked last year about how much he learned each week in practice about what this long season was about.

"He can do a lot of different things. We know what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are. Could we have helped him last year by getting him the ball more? Yes, absolutely. It's a part of the identity."

If Nagy and the offense finally get the running game in sync and gain confidence in it, much can change.

There have been plenty of Bears backs who had worse or better launches to their careers and in the end the first year provided little indication of where they were headed.

For instance, Montgomery outrushed Payton in his rookie year of 1975 by 210 yards, although he did make 46 more rushing attempts than Payton. Payton averaged only 3.5 yards an attempt as a rookie, but his averages skyrocketed as his line became better equipped to clear a path.

An interesting comparison to Montgomery was Thomas Jones, who started for the Bears' other Super Bowl team in 2006. Jones averaged only 3.3 yards a carry as a rookie for the Cardinals and gained just 373 yards. In his first year with the Bears, Jones' fifth year overall, his stats were similar to Montgomery's first Bears season. He rushed 240 times for 948 yards. Montgomery ran 242 times for 889 yards.

Some backs come in smashing down the door, but it helps immensely having an effective offensive line with them. 

Anthony Thomas ran for 1,183 yards as a Bears rookie, but backslid to 721 yards in his second season of 2002.

Jordan Howard had his best year as a rookie with 1,313 yards on 252 carries. Matt Forte ran for 1,238 yards as a rookie.

Attaching too much significance to one season for Montgomery, especially when the offensive line struggled with its overall production, is the epitome of paralysis through analysis.

If Montgomery had shown no ability to break tackles, his calling card in college, then it might be different. His ability to break tackles was plain and obvious even on rushes when he lost yardage. He had only 2.0 yards per carry after contact, but it's difficult to gain more when you're hit in the backfield so often or the second line of defense has avoided all blocks and is there after the first contact.

Montgomery's second year will be far more telling, especially if the Bears have managed to correct their line situation with the help of new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

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