Before Jordan Howard ever took a snap in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, questions surfaced if he would fit in the new scheme.
Howard finished the 2018 season with 250 rushing attempts, 935 yards and 3.7 yards per carry — all career lows.
And after a season with Nagy, those questions still remain.
Nagy spoke to reporters in Indianapolis last Wednesday, and his comments don’t give reassurance that Howard’s playing style will be a fit moving forward.
“With our identity as an offense, it’s just not an offense where you’re going to get 25-30 carries necessarily all the time or every game where you can expect that,” Nagy said.
The 2018 Coach of the Year also went on to say what he is looking for in a running back.
“When you’re dealing with running backs for us in this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision, you know can make guys miss,” Nagy said. “At the same time, there’s that balance being a hybrid of being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you’re not one dimensional, and that’s not easy.”
Whether supporters of the “Jordan Howard” fan club want to admit it or not, it seems that Howard’s days as a Bear are numbered, and the time for his successor is drastically approaching with the NFL Draft just 51 days away.
The Bears’ first pick won’t come until the third round (No. 87 overall), and, obviously, there is no telling which running backs will be available when the Bears are on the clock, but if Iowa State’s David Montgomery is on the board, then the Bears must draft him.
Montgomery finished his junior season with 257 carries for 1,216 yards (4.7 average) and 13 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 157 yards. He also was named a first-team all-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press.
As a comparison, NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein for NFL.com wrote that Montgomery’s comparison is none other than Kareem Hunt. Looking at what the two running backs did in college, Hunt had far more rushing attempts (782), yards (4,945), avg (6.3) and touchdowns (44) in his four-year career at Toledo than what Montgomery did in his three years at Iowa State: attempts (624), yards (2,925), avg (4.7) and touchdowns (26).
The two running backs did post similar numbers in the receiving game, though. Hunt caught 73 passes for 555 yards and one touchdown in his college career, and Montgomery caught 71 passes for 582 yards.
Although Hunt and Montgomery have similar receiving stats, it is how they play the running back position that truly reflects the similarities between the two, and this is why Montgomery is such an enticing prospect for the Bears’ offense. Plus, Montgomery doesn’t have the off-field issues that Hunt has.
Nagy wants a running back that “has really good vision” and one that “can make guys miss.”
Well, Montgomery fits those qualifications perfectly.
Last season against Baylor, Montgomery showcased his ability to make something out of nothing. Instead of running right, where the play was intended to go, the savvy RB saw there was nobody to his left and accelerated outside to gain 21 yards, despite facing a loaded box.
On this play against Oklahoma last year, Montgomery had nowhere to go on this third-and-2 run, but he trusted his vision and bounced outside to keep the Cyclones’ offense on the field.
Montgomery has an act for making guys miss, and during his sophomore season, he set a record with his 108 forced missed tackles according to Pro Football Focus. In his junior season, Montgomery had the most missed tackles per rushing attempt among running backs with 0.39, which was 0.03 more than FAU’s Devin Singletary.
Against West Virginia, defensive back Keith Washington gave his best attempt at grabbing air after Montgomery put a move on him to seal the victory for Iowa State.
In the 2017 matchup at Oklahoma, the Sooners played great defense on this play. The unblocked defender off the edge had Montgomery for a potential tackle for loss, but the Cyclone planted his left foot, evaded the tackler and ran for a first down.
Nagy mentioned that being a “hybrid” is a quality he wants in a running back. In 2017 against Oklahoma, Montgomery posted a career high in receptions (7) and yards (89). When Montgomery gets in the open field, that is when he is most dangerous. The Sooners’ defense found out first hand.
In the same game, Iowa State’s offense designed plays to get the ball in Montgomery’s hands. The Sooners were in position to stop the running back for a loss, but he found a way to maneuver through the defenders, reverse field and gain more than enough yards for the first down.
Along with showing great vision and elusiveness, Montgomery runs with great power to pick up first downs on short-yardage situations. On fourth-and-1 against Oklahoma in 2018, Montgomery is hit a yard before the first down marker, but he kept his feet moving and fell forward to keep the drive alive.
In the matchup against Kansas State last season, Montgomery took the initial hit at the 10-yard line, but he bounced off the defender and kept moving forward until he was eventually tackled at the 22-yard line.
Montgomery just didn’t utilize power when running the ball. When he was asked to block, he demonstrated he could hold his own when defenders blitzed.
Although Montgomery was productive and made countless eye-opening plays during his time as a Cyclone, his measurables at the NFL Combine didn’t leave the same impression.
David Montgomery's Relative Athletic Score. https://t.co/dPdQnHr73g
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) March 4, 2019
However, general manager Ryan Pace told reporters at Indianapolis that, at times, people focus too much on physical measurements.
“Running back is such an instinctive position, and I think as scouts sometimes we can get enamored with height, weight, speed,” Pace said. “Really that position, really, starts with instincts and vision. And I think we always have to be mindful of that and not overlooking that, and I think scouts can trip themselves up when you get focused too much on the physical measurables and not the instincts and vision that come with that position.”
Nobody will be overlooking Montgomery in the upcoming draft, and his tape proves he is not only a great running back but the perfect one for the Bears.