Matt Nagy isn’t exactly known for his killer run game.
The Chicago Bears head coach is entering his fourth season leading the team, and he is still fielding questions about the strength and functionality of his offensive scheme and design — particularly where the running game is concerned.
The Bears were ranked 27th out of 32 teams in rushing attempts last year (393 attempts) and 20th in 2019 (395). Considering they had the seventh-most rushing attempts in Nagy’s first year as head coach in 2018 (468), the Bears have literally run the ball less every season he has been in charge, and some top minds around the league don’t trust the Bears head coach — or his No. 1 running back — as a result.
The Athletic’s Dan Pompei spoke to four NFL scouts and picked their brains about the Bears’ entire 53-man roster, and they had some eye-opening things to say about Nagy, along with RB David Montgomery.
ALL the latest Bears news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Bears newsletter here!
NFL Scott on Montgomery: ‘I Don’t Know if He Can Create’
While three of the four scouts Pompei spoke with had positive things to say about Montgomery, one scout wasn’t so high on the Bears’ RB1.
“He’s a good back,” the scout said about Montgomery. “I don’t think he’s necessarily special or dynamic. I don’t know if he can create and overcome if the lanes aren’t generated. They don’t have an elite back. They have some system players, which doesn’t concern you if you are good up front, but there are some concerns up front.”
There are definite concerns up front, as the Bears’ offensive line is the biggest question mark surrounding the team this season. But while you can argue that Montgomery is not an elite back like, say, Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb or Christian McCaffrey, it’s difficult to say Montgomery cannot “create and overcome” if his o-line fails to do its job, particularly after what he did last year.
Montgomery finished his 2020 campaign with an overall grade of 81.8 from Pro Football Focus. He had 1,070 yards rushing, averaged 4.3 yards a carry and had 10 total touchdowns.
He finished his second season 5th in the NFL in rushing yards, and 5th in yards from scrimmage (1,508) and he ended the year on a strong note, netting over 100 yards from scrimmage in six consecutive games after Week 12.
Those who have watched Montgomery on film know that he’s rarely ever taken down by initial contact — but those familiar with the Bears’ offense also know how limited Montgomery’s opportunities have been — and that’s largely on Nagy.
Follow the Heavy on Bears Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest Bears-related breaking news, rumors, content and more!
NFL Scout on Nagy: ‘It’s Not in His Pedigree’
Montgomery only had 20+ carries in four of the 15 games he appeared in last year. Nagy told the media this offseason that his goal was to get his featured back 20+ rushes per game this year, but a different scout told Pompei he doesn’t think the Bears coach will do it.
“It’s on Nagy to make a commitment to the running game, but it’s not his pedigree to do that,” he told Pompei. “Look where he comes from. They just don’t run the ball enough. They will take a swing pass on third down instead of handing it off. It’s not in his nature. If he ran the ball more with (Mitch) Trubisky, I think they could have won a couple more games and Trubisky could have been more stable.”
Montgomery forced 54 missed tackled and averaged 3.15 yards after contact per rushing attempt last year. He had 24 explosive runs, and if he had gotten the ball more, those numbers would be unquestionably higher. Whether Nagy sticks to what he said and aims for 20+ carries a game remains to be seen, but for his part, Montgomery is ready for whatever workload he’s tasked with.
“I think any opportunity I get presented with I’d embrace,” Montgomery said about the idea of 20 carries a game on July 29. “If that would come to, I’d embrace it. But if it doesn’t, I’m going to embrace whatever I’m supposed to do anyway because at the end of the day you can’t play offense without 10 other guys besides me, so as much as I can contribute wherever I need to, whenever I need to, I’ll be available.”