CHICAGO — Matt Nagy calls watching tape the day after a game “the fun part,” because “you get to see what you have in front of you.”
Well, watching prized rookie RB David Montgomery’s first NFL touchdown will be especially fun — not only because it features a vicious jump cut before the Bears’ top pick explodes around the left edge and 8 yards in. Nagy also admits he didn’t see it the first time.
“You’re going to laugh a little bit, but when you’re calling plays you’re prepping yourself for the next play, and I heard everybody in the background doing some on oohs and ahhs,” he said Thursday after the Bears’ 23-13 preseason-opening loss to the Panthers. “I’d be lying if I told you I saw the whole thing. I got to see it.”
Confession: We saw it and might have been among the oohers and ahhers but, obviously, weren’t alone.
“I can’t imagine making cuts like he made, especially on the touchdown run,” said quarterback Chase Daniel, who led the touchdown drive and was the best quarterback to attempt a pass Thursday. “There was nothing there, and he made a touchdown of it. It was impressive, and he was on a snap [count], but it was fun to watch him.”
It sounds as though Montgomery wasn’t thrilled about the snap count either. He was just beginning to work up a lather on his final look from scrimmage — the eye-opening score bringing his excellent night’s work to six touches for 46 yards and a touchdown — when Nagy said he’d seen — or not seen — enough.
“The opportunities that he had [were] everything we thought he could do,” Nagy said. “He runs hard — he runs really, really hard. He runs violent, and he’s angry when he runs, and he’s tough to bring down with that first defender, and you could see run after the catch, but then he made a nice play on special teams, too, saving that return. He wanted more. That kid won’t stop, but I told him he’s — no more, he’s done.”
As in, done playing special teams, as he also did in the second half, saving a potential punt-return touchdown? As in, done for the preseason because it was already increasingly clear in camp before Thursday that Montgomery is the team’s most dynamic back who potentially could carry the full load? Because, obviously, Montgomery, for all intents and purposes, only is getting started on what many think might be the next star turn by a Bears running back.
“He’s a super well-rounded back. Runs hard. Quiet. Just works hard. So, you love to see that,” said guard Ted Larsen, who delivered a couple terrorizing blocks, including the one in space that freed Montgomery on the 23-yard catch-and-run screen play to set up his own touchdown.
“[His run instincts] just kind of make you stay on your block and fit it up right because you know if you give him a chance he’s going to make some people miss or he’s going to run them over.”
The quiet and direct Montgomery chose to downplay the bounce outside he took en route to his first end zone visit — “there’s going to be plenty more of those,” after all, Nagy told him immediately afterward.
“I just saw open space and I ran to it,” Montgomery said.
The amazing part is Montgomery made it look nearly as easy as he makes it sound. And those who have been in attendance daily in Bourbonnais aren’t merely getting excited about a preseason debut vs. second- and third-stringers — the rookie has looked more and more the part with each passing day in camp.
That’s why, even if Nagy did in fact have his head turned toward his play sheet as Montgomery crossed the goal line, he’s clearly gotten a clear enough picture of where his new feature back can go from here.
“It’s been steady and just completely in one direction,” he said of Montgomery’s first NFL offseason. “He really hasn’t — OTAs was a lot of pass game, so he got good at that, and then we get to training camp and we get to put the pads on and we can see what can he digest. You can see his arrow is up. He wanted more carries. I would have loved to give him more carries, but you have to be smart.”
It’s only one preseason game, but the Bears’ bold decision to trade up 14 spots in April and select Montgomery with the 73rd overall pick already is looking like a smart one.
Pro Football Weekly editor Hub Arkush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Hub_Arkush