The Bears leaned heavily on running back David Montgomery late last season and could continue to do so this year.
Asked about the possibility of the third-year pro getting 20 carries per game, coach Matt Nagy said: "I think it's very doable."
"When you look at where David has been the last couple of years, getting him the football is a good thing," Nagy said. "He can make a lot of people miss that aren't blocked. He can make guys miss that are blocked."
Montgomery displayed those abilities last season, tying for fifth in the NFL in rushing with a career-high 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns on 247 carries while also catching 54 passes for 438 yards and two TDs.
With the Bears battling for a playoff berth down the stretch, Montgomery made the most of an expanded role. After averaging 14.7 carries per game over the first season-and-a-half of his NFL career, he averaged 25.7 attempts in the final three games, producing 310 yards and four TDs. Included in that span was a 32-carry, 146-yard performance in a crucial 33-27 win over the Vikings in Minnesota.
Nagy is hoping the Bears are in position to feed Montgomery to protect a lead late in games more than they were last season. In 2020, they led only six of 16 contests heading into the final period of play.
"When you're able to get in that fourth quarter and you have the lead and you can hand the ball off to David Montgomery, that's a good thing," Nagy said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been in that situation enough in the past two years. So, it's limited him a little bit with carries. A lot of these guys that get these heavier carries are getting them in the fourth quarter and it's jumping their numbers up a little."
Injuries not serious
Nagy reiterated Thursday that the injuries that have sidelined safety Eddie Jackson and right tackle Germain Ifedi are "not concerning."
Jackson opened training camp on the non-football injury (NFI) list because he hurt his hamstring during a recent workout outside of Halas Hall.
"It was just normal training; nothing crazy," Nagy said. "[It's] just something that we want to make sure that we stay on top of and make sure that we're not forcing him back too soon."
Ifedi opened camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after tweaking his hip flexor during a conditioning drill Tuesday.
Bears welcome back fans
The Bears conducted their first training camp practice with fans in attendance Thursday at Halas Hall since August 2019 in Bourbonnais. Last year when camp moved back to Halas Hall, the Bears had intended to conduct open practices. But those plans were scuttled due to COVID-19.
"For us as players and coaches, today marks a pretty cool time where the fans can come back to practice," Nagy said before Thursday's workout. "You kind of feel the juice and the energy. It's not the 11,000 fans like we were getting at Bourbonnais because of the new location. But at the same time, it's going to be a lot of fun seeing all those fans out there getting going. I know the players and coaches will love it and we'll have a good time. We appreciate those fans that showed up today."
Thursday marked the first of 14 camp practices open to a limited number of fans. All those sessions require a free ticket for entry. Individuals were able to register to enter a drawing for the free tickets through July 15.
Fans can still purchase $10 tickets to the Bears’ Family Fest practice Tuesday at Soldier Field. The workout is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
In addition, the Bears plan to welcome fans back to Soldier Field for home games this season at full capacity. Last year they played all their home contests in front of empty seats because of COVID.
"This game that we play—and we all got to taste it last year—it's a fun game, but it's not the same without fans," Nagy said. "It's just not; that's real. And so, when we have the fans show up to games, when you have the fans show up to practices, when everybody's out there, that's what this is all about."