David Montgomery would never say it, but in his four years with the Chicago Bears, he never had the opportunity to play with an elite offensive line. In fact, I think it may be fair to say that he’s never played behind a good offensive line. Though Chicago did rank fifth in PFF’s run block grade last year, prior to 2022, they hadn’t ranked higher than 16th with Montgomery in the backfield.
Now that Montgomery has landed with the Detroit Lions on a three-year free agency deal, he knows he has a unique opportunity to play behind some elite talent.
“Yeah, you salivate a little bit,” Montgomery said on Thursday at his introductory press conference at Allen Park. “You get three Pro Bowlers on the o-line and them having high expectations for themselves and me having high expectations for myself, it’ll be really good.”
Montgomery is not hyperbolizing. The Lions have three Pro Bowlers on the offensive line in left guard Jonah Jackson, center Frank Ragnow, and right tackle Penei Sewell. Last year, the Lions ranked ninth in both PFF run blocking and ESPN’s run block win rate, despite several injuries to the offensive line.
To give you a sense of the difference that could make, in his four years in Chicago, Montgomery never averaged more than 2.0 yards before contact per rush. In his two years in Detroit, Jamaal Williams—the man Montgomery will be replacing—averaged 2.5 and 2.4 yards before contact. Williams found the end zone a franchise-record 17 times last year, while Montgomery has scored 20 rushing touchdowns in the last three years combined.
And with Montgomery’s impressive ability to break tackles—he has forced the fifth most broken tackles in the NFL since 2019—the results could be explosive.
Montgomery also familiarized himself already with his running back room and had high praise for them.
“Being able to have Craig Reynolds be back, Jermar (Jefferson), and being able to play with (D’Andre) Swift, too, will be nice,” Montgomery said. “I came from a great running back room and I’m walking right back into one.”
Montgomery has obviously had an up-close look at the Lions over his past four years in Chicago, and he has, in particular, taken notice of Swift, dating back to college.
“Yeah, he’s nice,” Montgomery said. “I knew about him since he was at Georgia, so I’ve always respected and appreciated his game. It’s going to be really dope to play with him, being able to say that me and him are in the same room. But he’s nasty, bro, so I show a great appreciation for him.”
Last year, Swift and Williams formed a formidable duo that ranked 11th in rushing yards, 15th in yards per carry, and third in rushing touchdowns. With Montgomery now in for Williams, it’s fair to say expectations are now even higher.
“It’s a good opportunity to play with a team that’s starting something crazy,” Montgomery said. “Being able to say I can be a part of it, I’m blessed. I feel very, very excited to be able to get in the offense that’s so powerful and dynamic.”