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  • Peterson: Top NFL evaluator says Chicago Bears' rookie David Montgomery is “turning heads'

Peterson: Top NFL evaluator says Chicago Bears' rookie David Montgomery is “turning heads'

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Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy completes pass to Joseph Scates
Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

David Montgomery has traits that could lead to NFL stardom. That’s not hyperbole. That’s exactly what one of the smartest analysts covering the NFL has to say about the Chicago Bears rookie. 

Former NFL and Iowa Hawkeye safety Matt Bowen, now one of the sport’s go-to evaluators, was the one who told me that on Monday night.

When Matt speaks … I take notes.

“He’s going to thrive in the offense, and people will say ‘wow,’” Bowen said of the Iowa State great. ”His game will transition to the pro game. Fit and opportunity is everything. David’s opportunity will be there, both in run and pass game. His fit is there, because that’s what he did so well in college.

“This is what the Bears were looking for.”

Iowa State’s most recent consecutive 1,000-yard running back gets his first crack against someone other than an elite Bears defense in Thursday’s exhibition against Carolina.

“David Montgomery has a lot of pro traits that will transition quickly,” said Bowen, who covers the NFL for ESPN. “People will see that when he gets on football field. He’s got very quick short speed bursts. His contact balance is excellent. He’s been good in the passing game.

“Here’s one thing to his advantage — he’s been going against the Bears defense every day in practice — and that’s a top-five defense. He has to see them every day, and he’s competing very favorably.

“David’s turned heads. His camp reports are very good. I’m anxious to see him in the preseason.”

This seems an appropriate time to bring up something else — that Campbell isn’t getting enough credit for Montgomery’s eye-opening preseason. Head football coaches rarely do when one of their players goes on to do big things after college.

In this case, however, where would the Bears’ third-round draft choice be if Iowa State didn’t run a pro-oriented offense, and if Campbell’s coaching staff didn’t find a successful way to showcase not only Montgomery, but also highlight-reel receiver Hakeem Butler?

The fact that Montgomery is in a position to become a household name in the country’s biggest sport is a major win for Campbell and a major endorsement on the program he operates. Makes recruiting top running backs a bit easier, you’d think. 

“What coach Campbell runs at Iowa State — that scheme transitions more and more to the NFL,” Bowen said. “And tempo — we don’t talk about that enough, but tempo is a game-changer. Iowa State plays with tempo. The Chicago Bears play with tempo.”

All this is pertinent as the Bears near Thursday’s first preseason game — against Carolina. It’s relevant, as Montgomery continues to get praise.

“Nothing is going to change from what we saw on tape at Iowa State,” Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters. “He has some of the best vision that I’ve seen in a long time. He feels where the defenders are before they show up.

“The defenders in this league are a little bit bigger, they’re a little bit faster and they hit a little bit harder. The one thing he did in his college career was he protected that football. That’s what he’s going to have to continue to focus on. I know that he’ll do that.”

Montgomery is contending with Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis for touches. At 5-foot-6 and 181 pounds, Cohen is an incredible offensive weapon … but not someone you hand the ball off to 20 times a game. Davis, a Bears free-agent acquisition during the off-season, is a four-season NFL veteran who, at 26 years old, is part rusher, part receiver and part blocker.

Even in a talented backfield, the expectation is that Montgomery should demand quite a few touches of his own. 

“There’s always an extra player, defensive player that’s unaccountable, and as pro running back, you have to make him miss,” Bowen said. “You have to shake him or run through contact. David Montgomery can do both.”

Bowen studies video until his eyes become blurry. He played last year’s Iowa State-West Virginia tape over and over. That’s how impressed he was with Montgomery.

It was the junior’s best game, rushing 29 times for 189 yards. He made defenders miss in the open field. He ran over those he couldn’t shake. His cuts were perfect, His vision was uncanny, and his balance?

“Wow,” Bowen said.

“He had the quickest cuts I’ve seen from a college player in a long time in that game,” Bowen said. “He absorbed contact with his low center of gravity He tacked on extra yards.”

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Now gets a chance to do it in the NFL, starting Thursday night.

“Coach Nagy is very creative play-caller,” Bowen said. “All three backs will be utilized. They’ll all get touches. By midseason, I think David has the traits, if he stays healthy, to be the guy that gives them the most touches on week-to-week basis.”

Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.

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Source: Des Moines Register