Joniak: David Montgomery Shines In Bears Debut

Montgomery flashed his potential and versatility in the preseason opener.

Jeff Joniak
August 09, 2019 - 2:50 pm

(WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears opened their preseason slate with a 23-13 loss to the Panthers at Soldier Field on Thursday evening. Let's get to some observations.

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-- I love running backs. I always have, always will. Now that most schemes challenge them to learn more than just running to the point of attack, they can be even more dynamic and dangerous. It's precisely why "wanting to see more" was my reaction to Bears rookie running back David Montgomery on Thursday evening.

-- As an Iowa State alum, I followed Montgomery’s career closely, noting his quick feet, jump cuts, outstanding vision and contact balance. All of those traits came together on his seven-yard touchdown run against the Panthers. The burst to the outside to finish the run serves as an example of what Montgomery is capable of near the goal line.

-- Montgomery had 24 rushing touchdowns in his final 25 games at Iowa State. He has a nose for the end zone. Of course, his responsibility will go beyond that with the Bears. On Thursday, he also did a good job in picking up a Panthers linebacker in pass protection, made a touchdown-saving tackle on special teams and drew an illegal block on Marvin Hall’s first punt return. Montgomery will be a constant threat in the screen game, which included a 23-yard catch-and-run in his Bears debut. I get it -- it’s only preseason against backups, but it was a good start.

-- Offensive lineman Ted Larsen made an outstanding cut block in space on that Montgomery screen. You have to love it.

-- You have to be equally excited about Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, who triggers quickly with closing speed that will result in big plays defensively. His cannon-shot sack of Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen served as the example. Smith had a clear path and was a blur. He's physical at the finish. 

-- It's hard to believe defensive lineman Eddie Goldman is still only 25. He's now in his fifth season and is the quiet storm on one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL.  Against the Panthers' second-unit offensive line, he expectedly dominated his one series of snaps. He devoured the double teams and pushed the pocket. Goldman still has room to grow into one of the best nose tackles in the league.

-- The crowd's reaction to the Bears' kicking developments didn’t surprise my broadcast partner Tom Thayer at all. He told our listeners that we didn’t need to say anything during field-goal or extra-point attempts by Eddy Pineiro or Elliott Fry. The crowd would sufficiently explain the outcome. It was true. It's weird of course, for a preseason opener to have a moment like Fry’s as time expired in the first half. His 43-yard field goal was true after he was frozen with a timeout call by Panthers coach Ron Rivera, an ex-Bear himself. The place erupted when the field goal was made. Rivera did the Bears a favor in their ongoing evaluation and investigative journey to find the right kicker.  

-- Bears tight end Ian Bunting calls himself an "aspiring beach bum" on his Instagram account. Maybe one day. Right now, the 6-foot-7 Hinsdale Central product is leaving quite the first impression. A natural pass-catcher, Bunting’s first NFL game included three catches, one for 45 yards, which set up Fry’s field goal. Previously, his only game at Soldier Field was as a middle-school fan. 

-- Bunting knows he has much to work on. He was victimized by a "Peanut Punch" and fumbled, was nabbed for holding and is still working out technique kinks as a blocker. He appears to be a lunch-bucket competitor, showing second-effort resilience and power after the catch. It will be fun to watch how Bunting evolves over the rest of the preseason.

--  Undrafted rookie cornerback Clifton Duck intercepted passes in each of the last three practices before the preseason opener. Playing both outside and the inside nickel against the Panthers, he was gritty. Duck led the team with six tackles, including an open field one-on-one confrontation with 255-pound Panthers fullback Alex Armah. Duck is listed at 170 pounds and submarined Armah after an eight-yard catch-and-run. Duck was also challenged in the first quarter on a throw to the end zone and won the battle with Panthers receiver Aldrick Robinson.

-- Sorting out the young cornerbacks is an important part of the Bears' preseason. Rookie Duke Shelley and converted quarterback John Franklin flashed with physicality and speed on some plays.

-- Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris can be a beast. His size is tough to deal with on the interior. He continues to unlock his hands on the rush, and his length and wingspan blurs passing lanes and creates separation from blockers. He had an impressive sack.

-- Nice by safety job Deon Bush, who had his first career interception and provided good run support in the box.

-- The Bears' punt coverage unit allowed only 7.5 yards per return with a long of 17 yards in 2018. Punter Pat O’Donnell set career-best marks in his fewest number of returns allowed and return yards allowed. Opposing punt returners only amassed 150 yards off O'Donnell's punts in 2018 after recording 512 yards in 2017. The coverage will be a point of emphasis at Bears practice this week after the Panthers returned seven punts for 131 yards.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.