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David Montgomery. Injured.

| August 27th, 2020


It’s a weird position, running back. While many, including myself, had high expectations for Montgomery, every year we see a half dozen backs emerge off the free agent scrap heap and have productive seasons. If the Bears get decent quarterback and line play, they should be able to survive losing Montgomery for an extended period without taking too much of a hit.

Now they must search for his replacement. Options include:

  • C.J. Prosise
  • Devonta Freeman
  • Spencer Ware
  • Bilal Powell

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Least Explosive Team in the NFL, or the Story of the 2019 Chicago Bears

| February 4th, 2020

I’ve been working my way through the Bears’ 2019 performance to see what changed from 2018 that caused them to slip from 12-4 to 8-8. Today, I want to look at explosive plays, which I found last season have a strong correlation to overall offensive performance.

There are a variety of definitions for explosive plays depending on who you ask, so I want to clarify I’m using parameters laid out by ESPN NFL Matchup, which counts any run that gains 15+ yards or pass that gains 20+ yards as explosive. Let’s start with a preliminary look at how the Bears did in 2019 relative to the rest of the NFL. All data is from Pro Football Reference, with explosive play information coming from the Game Play Finder. Pass percentages were calculated including sacks and pass attempts as pass plays.



That’s ugly.

If you want to compare to 2018, the Bears slipped across the board. They had 71 explosive plays in 2018, with explosive rates of 7% overall, 5.3% on runs, and 8.4% on passes. All of those numbers in 2018 were slightly below average, ranging from 18th to 21st in the league, while they are all bottom 2 in 2019.

So what happened to cause such a slump? Like I’ve done when evaluating both the running and passing games, I want to break down what it looks like for individual Bears players and/or position groups from season to season. That information is shown in the table below, with all cells formatted by 2018 / 2019 data. (I’ll note the pass rates are a bit higher for pass catchers than QBs because they are only out of targets and exclude sacks and throwaways.)


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What Changed in the Rush Game: Volume I

| January 15th, 2020

Chicago’s rushing attack was woeful in 2019, finishing 27th in the NFL in rushing yards (91 yards/game), 29th in yards per attempt (3.7 yards/carry), and 26th in success rate on rushing attempts (44%). All three marks showed a decrease from 2018, when they were 11th (121 yards/game), 27th (4.1 yards/carry), and 10th (48%) in those three metrics.

This happened despite having fairly decent consistency in personnel. The starting offensive line was the same (when healthy), and the Bears saw only three primary rushers in both seasons. Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky were 2 of the 3, with the main rusher changing from Jordan Howard in 2018 to David Montgomery in 2019.

Today I want to look at the running game from a variety of angles to try and figure out what changed to account for the dip in production.


Player vs. Player Comparison

Let’s start out by comparing each player from season-to-season. First, I’ll look at the players who accounted for the majority of rushing attempts each year: Jordan Howard and David Montgomery. Their usage and production was remarkably similar in the two seasons, as you can see in the table below.

Similar playing time, similar carries, similar efficiency. The two were basically indistinguishable from each other, at least on the surface. That really makes you question whether it was worth getting rid of Howard and trading up for Montgomery in the 3rd round last year. At least for 2019, the answer is a resounding no.

This post is focused on rushing, but look at those bottom two rows. One of the reasons to swap Howard out for Montgomery was supposed to be that Montgomery can feature more heavily in the passing game, and thus make the offense less predictable and harder to defend. That didn’t happen in 2019. One of Chicago’s big problems in 2018 was that they were too predictable based on personnel (Tarik Cohen = pass, Jordan Howard = run, Anthony Miller = pass, etc.). In 2019, the offense ran the ball 50% of the time when Montgomery was on the field and only 24% of the time when he wasn’t. For Cohen, those numbers were 25% and 52%. That’s too big of a swing in tendencies based on personnel.

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2019 Season Preview Volume II: The Hopes

| August 29th, 2019

Yesterday, just the facts, ma’am. Today, the hopes. Our season preview continues by looking at six things – that if they happen – the Bears have a chance to be the best team in the league.


Hope 1. Mitch Trubisky will improve.

4,000 yards. 30+ touchdowns. 10-15 interceptions max. If Trubisky hits those numbers, he’s on the road to being one of the best in the game.


Hope 2. David Montgomery will be a very good running back.

The core of the Bears offense is their center and guards. Daniels, Whitehair and Long are angry, tough men.  Montgomery is a big back that is hell to bring down. If the rookie is as advertised, the Bears could have the game’s best closer.


Hope 3. Eddy Pineiro will solidify the kicker position.

Here’s what the Bears fan wants: a kicker they don’t worry about from 43 yards. You wanna miss a few 52 yarders? Fine. You wanna be 75% from 45-50? Fine. But just be iron clad from inside 45. Be a steady, reliable figure for the organization. And stay the fuck off morning television.


Hope 4. The Bears will get production from the tight end position.

Trey Burton disappointed in 2018 and then mysteriously no-showed the playoff game. Adam Shaheen is all gravy, no meat. Ben Braunecker is nothing special but he’ll certainly find himself playing meaningful snaps this season. The Bears have a lot of toys (Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson) to move the football but they still need the tight end spot to produce.


Hope 5. Allen Robinson will stay healthy.

Robinson has shown flashes of being an elite wide receiver but he has 56 catches total over the last two seasons due to health reasons alone. If the Bears want their passing attack to be explosive, Robinson needs to be on the field.

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Causes for 2019 Concern: Volume II

| August 2nd, 2019

Now we return to the list of reasons the Bears might struggle to repeat 2018’s success.


IV. Cornerback Penalties

New nickelback Buster Skrine was flagged 7 times for 107 yards in 2018. Those numbers were 14th and 7th highest, respectively, among all defensive backs.

Prince Amukamara also has a knack for drawing flags; he drew 8 for 90 yards (8th and 13th among DBs) in 2018, and had 2 more get declined.

And 2018 wasn’t an outlier for either player. Skrine had 11 flags for 105 yards in 2017, while Amukamara had 7 for 99.

You can live with having one penalty-prone player in your secondary, but two is a bit more of a concern. All it takes is one big penalty in a key moment to swing a close game.


V. David Montgomery and/or Anthony Miller

I’m grouping these two together as relatively unproven young players who will be counted on for big roles in 2019. For Chicago’s offense to take the step forward that is needed to win a Super Bowl, Miller needs to supplant Taylor Gabriel as the WR2 and Montgomery needs to beat out Mike Davis as the starting RB. I think there are excellent reasons to be high on both Montgomery and Miller, but what happens if one or both of them aren’t ready?

Davis and Gabriel are both solid veterans who are capable role players, but neither is a guy who should be a main cog in a top-level offense. Miller and Montgomery are capable of doing just that, but they could hold the offense back if they fail to prove it in 2019.

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ATM: Expect A Heavy Workload For David Montgomery

| July 2nd, 2019

Give Matt Nagy credit for saying he wants to use a committee approach when it comes to the running back position, but don’t be surprised if rookie David Montgomery is the bell cow before long. While the Bears have generally been trying to keep their depth chart a secret (and not allowing media members to report on the topic) it seems the rookie has already been getting playing time with the first team, a rarity for any mid-round running back.

Montgomery will still have to earn the job. Running backs, especially those in the 220-pound range, generally don’t show much until the pads come on; it’s impossible to display power and contact balance when the defense can’t hit. But by all accounts, Montgomery has looked the part, opening eyes the same way Tarik Cohen did two years ago, per Adam Jahns on the Hoge & Jahns Podcast.


Montgomery’s currently tied fifth favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. Third among non-QBs.


The Bears signed Mike Davis and it seems that he has gotten most of the reps with the first team offense this offseason. But in the most recent clips released by the team on their website, you can see Montgomery sneaking out of the backfield with Mitch Trubisky playing quarterback. Maybe those are just misleading shots, but they didn’t exist at the start of the offseason program, when even Ryan Nall was shown with the starters in one of the clips.

If Montgomery has already been as impressive as most have said without the pads, the general expectation is that he’ll be even better once they start hitting. After all, his strength is supposed to be his ability to play through contact.

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Debating the ‘Value’ Of David Montgomery

| May 7th, 2019

Shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft, the Ryan Pace detractors were at it again, claiming the Bears GM “wasted” a pick by trading up to grab Iowa State running back David Montgomery.

The attacks, made by noted Pace-hater Bill Barnwell (among others), are more about Pace’s selection philosophy than his actual selections. Writers often like to live in a dream world where draft picks are more valuable than actually having quality players. Oh, and none of those picks should be used on a running back!

GMs live in the real world. They realize they have to acquire good players and can’t sit back and wait for life to happen to them. That is part of the reason why Phil Emery is a scout for the Falcons, not GM of the Bears. Of course, we shouldn’t expect Barnwell to understand that.

The case of Montgomery was especially delicious to critics because a running back many of them liked more — Alabama’s Damien Harris — went with Chicago’s original pick, 87 overall, to the New England Patriots. Why move up 14 spots to draft a worse player? Well, it’s pretty simple really: they liked Montgomery more. A lot more.

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ATM: Top Picks Made With Super Bowl In Mind

| May 1st, 2019

In years past, Ryan Pace drafted relatively raw players like Jonathan Bullard, Adam Shaheen, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, James Daniels and, of course, Mitch Trubisky early. He seemed to prefer potential over immediate production. The 2019 Draft was a stark contrast. With their first two picks — and only two in the first five rounds — the Bears drafted RB David Montgomery and WR Riley Ridley, players who should be ready to make an impact right away. This is a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl and in order to achieve that goal they’ll need everybody on the roster ready to play.

Neither Montgomery nor Ridley were necessarily explosive game breakers in college and surely won’t be in the NFL — both struggled to break 4.6 in the 40-yard dash — but they’re polished players. They both seem to have a natural feel for the game that should help them make an impact right away.

There is no question that third-round pick Montgomery has the body and all-around skill set to play in the NFL. While he may lack the explosiveness of the league’s elite backs, at 5’10”, 220 pounds, the Iowa State product is built for the NFL punishment. And he showed polish as a receiver in college, with solid route-running and soft hands.



A year ago the Atlanta Falcons draft Calvin Ridley to replace Taylor Gabriel, a free agent signing with your Chicago Bears. Now, somewhat ironically, the Bears may have drafted Calvin’s brother to do the same. Ridley likely won’t replace Gabriel as a rookie, but he shouldn’t have a problem winning the fourth receiver job and could move into a starting role sooner than later. (Anthony Miller should replace Gabriel in the Zebra role by 2020.)

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