Over his first three NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears, running back David Montgomery said he looked at the two yearly matchups with the Detroit Lions as 'stat games.'
"Me just circling the calendar of when I would play Detroit," Montgomery said this week. "And then last year it was just a whole different story. (They beat us Week 10) I'm like, 'Maybe it was a fluke.' And then they did it to us again the second time, I'm like, 'Maybe they're the real deal.' And then I got over here, I'm like, 'Oh yeah, this the real deal.'"
Montgomery has nothing but love for the City of Chicago and the Bears organization that was his home for the first four years of his NFL career starting in 2019. But he also said this week he's very happy with the decision to come to Detroit this offseason and play with a team that currently sits atop the NFC North with a 7-2 record heading into Sunday's game against his old team.
Montgomery leads the Lions with 501 yards rushing on 106 carries (4.7 avg.) with seven touchdowns. It's worth mentioning he missed two and a half games due to a rib injury.
He and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs are a formidable duo in Detroit's backfield with Gibbs adding 476 rushing yards on 90 carries with four touchdowns. Gibbs also missed a couple games with a hamstring injury.
Both were healthy last week and combined for 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns against the No. 6 rushing defense in the NFL.
Gibbs said this week he considers Montgomery like a big brother to him. Montgomery said it's crucial to have two backs to carry the load and it will keep both players fresh as we get into the dog days of December and January. Gibbs is the home-run threat with world class speed and Montgomery is the hammer that continually pounds the defense, though he has some big-play potential himself as shown by his 75-yard touchdown run last week vs. the Chargers.
One of the things Montgomery said he's most thankful for here in Detroit is the ability to run behind this offensive line that is one of the best in the business.
"It's more of a blessing than anything, just being able to have such a profound group in front of me," he said. "I think even when I was in high school and sometimes in college, I never knew what that really felt like, but to have it here and feel it, super, super dope. I think also it gives like me an opportunity to showcase what I can actually do, cause I hadn't got granted that for a while in my career but now I feel like it's becoming apparent what I can do."
He said he's looking forward to seeing some of his good friends with the Bears but is treating Sunday like just another game.
"I'm just going to be me, man," he said. "I'm not going to try to play out of the lines of myself, I'm just going to be me. I think me being who I am is enough. So, I'll just go out, play the way that I play, play the way that I know how and hope that we execute properly and walk out of there with a dub."
WILLIAMS' IMPACT GROWING
Second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams saw a season high in playing time against the Chargers, playing 34 snaps or 52 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps. He caught two passes and had a touchdown called back due to penalty. He also had a crucial block on Montgomery's 75-yard touchdown run.
"He's doing a phenomenal job," Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said of Williams. "Really, since he's come back, in meetings, he's attentive, he asks good questions, walkthroughs, he's on his stuff. And then in practice, he's practicing really hard.
"We're still working to get on the same page, in some ways, in the passing game, but we see improvement each and every day, each and every week, so far. And I think the more reps he continues to get in games, it's only going to accelerate his progress."
Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El thinks the catches and yardage production is just a matter of time for Williams.
"I think it's just coming," Randle El said. "It's just a matter of time because he's getting better. He's excited about not just catching the ball, he's excited about being where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be there, about getting blocks for his teammates, and stuff like that. So the selflessness is coming out. Like he wants to do more for the team.
"Like, 'Yeah, I want to catch the ball,' but at the same time he wants to make sure he's doing his part to be where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there and not just in the pass game but in the run game as well."
The idea of linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez playing some fullback was floated around as early as last year.
"When we drafted him last year, we were in the OTAs and I think it was John Morton at the time, was with us, and he said, 'Golly, that guy looks just like a fullback,'" Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said Thursday. "And so, we've kind of had our eyes on him. We mentioned something to Coach (Campbell) back then and he said, 'No, no, no, he's a linebacker, he's a linebacker.'"
But then fullback Jason Cabinda was placed on IR with an injury and the idea was brought back up. This time Campbell was on board with Rodriguez playing less of a role on defense this year.
"Kind of opened the door a little bit to kind of guide him down that road and he's done a great job so far," Johnson said of Rodriguez. "He's a physical player, instinctive, smart, which makes the learning curve a lot better for us and I think we've had some production when he's been out on the field."
Rodriguez played his most reps at fullback last week against the Chargers and had a couple nice blocks. He's splitting his time between the defense, offense and special teams, and said he's liked the move.
"It's a little chaotic but nothing I can't handle," he said Thursday. "They do a good job of explaining it, especially the fullback side with different schemes and what the defense does. 'Alright, here's what you get here, here and here.' Which is kind of eye-opening to learn."
The next step now for Rodriguez is getting his hands on the football.
"Hopefully we'll see if I can get the ball this week or something," he said with a smile.