CHICAGO — All throughout training camp, the players and coaches on the Chicago Bears raved about their anticipation to watch David Montgomery suit up for a real game.
On Thursday night, the rookie running back from Iowa State didn’t disappoint.
With just six touches, the former Cyclone rushed for 16 yards, caught three passes for another 30 yards and scored the Bears’ lone touchdown in a 23-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers in their preseason opener at Soldier Field.
For a game in which the starters were hardly featured, Montgomery — Chicago’s top draft pick this year in the third round — served as the team’s postgame star. Surrounded with Windy City media, he said he felt he adjusted well to his first NFL action.
“It was a great experience to actually get out there with the guys and be able to show what we got and what we have been preparing for,” Montgomery said. “It was exciting and a great experience.”
Montgomery’s production came to little surprise to coach Matt Nagy.
“The opportunities that he had was everything we thought he could do,” Nagy said in his postgame press conference. “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. …
“He wanted more. That kid won’t stop but I told him no more. He’s done.”
Members of the starting offense, including quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and newly acquired back Mike Davis, played just the first series of the game — a three-and-out with three Davis runs. Backup Chase Daniel went under center after that and immediately Montgomery got to work.
He had two touches in his first series, another Chicago three-and-out. Two drives later, in the second quarter, the ball went his way on five of the Bears’ seven plays — including a 23-yard catch from Daniel to put the Bears in Panthers territory and a bruising 7-yard touchdown run to cap the drive.
That was essentially the end of Montgomery’s night, save for a few appearances on special teams. But for teammates, it was nice to finally show the world what they’ve been seeing out of the back all training camp.
“He’s a really smart guy, first and foremost, and in this offense you need smart running backs,” said Daniel, who led the team in passing with 120 yards while completing 11 of 13 attempts. “He didn’t seem nervous out there, he didn’t seem anxious for a rookie running back playing in his first preseason game. That’s a good thing. …
“It’s fun to watch him run, once you hand the ball off in the gun and he makes a cut. … There was nothing there and he made a touchdown out of it.”
In the second half, another Bears rookie back broke out — seventh-rounder Kerrith Whyte Jr. from Florida Atlantic. He finished with game-high 35 yards on just six carries and caught a Tyler Bray pass for 7 yards. His 23-yard sprint midway through the fourth quarter was the longest run play of the game.
“Each and every day, I’m going to go back and watch film and continue to work hard and see what I need to improve on,” Whyte said.
After Montgomery’s touchdown, Nagy said he told the back that there are going to be “plenty more of those,” an obvious sign of the faith the Bears have in him. The coach added he might have to be a little “smarter” about his preseason usage to make sure Montgomery’s legs are ready for a regular season workload.
“You can see his arrow is up,” Nagy said. “I would have loved to give him more carries, but you have to be smart.”