David Montgomery is coming off his best back-to-back performances as a rookie, following up his game-winning TD grab to punctuate a beastly 18-touch, 87-total-yard Thanksgiving showing in Detroit with 86 rushing yards on 20 carries vs. the vaunted Dallas Cowboys front last week.
So much for the dreaded rooke wall.
"I've actually seen him getting stronger each week," Bears RB coach Charles London said Tuesday.
Ask most players and they'll say the rookie wall is real. After all, the college season ends in November, when NFL stakes are often at their highest point, and that's long after the exhaustive pre-draft process preceding a full offseason of work that goes well beyond what's asked of student athletes.
Obviously, the NFL draft is largely a guessing game with teams struggling to properly project how a college player will fare in the pros, period, never mind how they'll look in the latter portion of their rookie season. London, though, said the Bears were optimistic that Montgomery could carry over his track record at Iowa State of growing stronger as the year goes on.
Montgomery averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his career with the Cyclones in November, up from 4.4 and 4.6, respectively, in the first two full months. But beyond the sheer numbers, London said he can tell in recent weeks Montgomery has been at his best by the way he's seeing holes and feeling the way certain calls are being blocked.
"... He's more than halfway through his rookie season, and I know when we played Detroit on Thanksgiving, the first time he came to the sideline, he said, 'I'm feeling it today. I can see it.'"
It was apparent to everyone, Montgomery ripping through arm-tackle attempts by the hapless Detroit 'D' before coming through in crunch time with his first-ever NFL receiving touchdown. It was equally evident last week vs. a Cowboys stop-unit that rarely stopped the powerful back on first contact.
Perhaps tougher to see is the work Montgomery both is putting in behind the scenes and the lengths to which he's gone to ensure the guy behind him, QB Mitch Trubisky, is remaining upright.
"That’s usually the biggest adjustment for a young running back coming into the NFL," London said of pass blocking. "He’s done a great job with that. ... I really think he’s taken a big step with his game."
London revealed that on occasion Montgomery will even delay getting into his routes at the expense of keeping his quarterback safe.
"He takes a lot of pride in protecting Mitch. He’ll come to the sideline sometimes and say, ‘Coach, I should’ve got out [into a route] but I didn’t want Mitch to get hit. I didn’t want to let the team down here.’"
Suffice to say, the Bears appreciate that kind of selflessness, that kind of fearlessness that their prized rookie has shown during some monster blitz pickups in recent weeks, in addition to having a tremendous December weapon as they attempt to extend their postseason livelihood as long as possible.
And with the Bears preparing to face two of the NFL's worst run defenses over the next two weeks prior to visiting a Vikings 'D' less than 10 days removed from allowing the most rushing yards in a game during the Mike Zimmer era, the table appears to be set for Montgomery to maintain this recent run.
"We felt [during the pre-draft evaluation] like he’s a player that got stronger as the season went on, and that’s what he’s proving right now," London said.
For Montgomery's part, well, he makes sure to remind everyone he's playing a supporting role.
“I’m just taking it one game at a time and I keep chipping away at the armor. It’s being able to create chemistry with my O-line. Those guys have been doing good. I credit them with the little bit of success I’ve had towards the end of the season. I’m just happy to be here.”