Although the Green Bay Packers offense has struggled without injured starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, there are some positive things that have come out of this difficult time. This is especially true of the running back situation. The first running back to show some potential was fifth round draft pick Aaron Jones. Jones had two games where he rushed for over 100 yards. When he fell to injury, it was fellow running back Jamal Williams’ time to step in. Williams and his aggressive running style, along with his surprising ability in the passing game, has given the Packers another element in their running game.
When Jones made his way back from his knee injury last week in the Packers victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Packers offensive staff got to see what the future might hold with both Jones and Williams. Williams rushed for over 100 yards with a rushing touchdown while Jones rushed for the winning touchdown in overtime. But with Williams and Jones emerging, it appears another Packers running back might be left out in the cold. The future is up in the air for Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery.
The Future Is Up in the Air for Green Bay Packers Running Back Ty Montgomery
Running back wasn’t supposed to be Montgomery’s position when the Packers selected him out of Stanford in the third round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Although Montgomery played the position while he was in high school in Texas, it wasn’t where he made a name for himself. While at Stanford, Montgomery excelled as a slot receiver and returning kicks. In 2013, Montgomery was consensus All-American as a kickoff returner, averaging 31.2 yards per kickoff and returning two for touchdowns. He also displayed ability as a wide receiver, totaling 172 receptions for 2,125 yards with 15 receiving touchdowns during his Stanford career. Although he saw some time in the Cardinal’s backfield, his main asset was catching passes out of the slot. There is no doubt that Packers general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy envisioned using Montgomery the same way they utilize Randall Cobb in their offense, lining him up all over the place. But those plans went out the door in 2016 out of necessity.
Montgomery found it difficult to earn playing time in his rookie season with him behind proven receivers like Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Along with those two, the Packers had former 2014 second round draft pick Davante Adams, who the Packers were high on because of his size and his ability. That season, Montgomery notched just 15 catches for 136 yards with two receiving touchdowns. He also returned seven kicks for an average of 31.1 yards per return. But unfortunately for Montgomery and the Packers, he would suffer an ankle injury that forced him to have surgery and be placed on season ending injured reserve.
The Packers still had high expectations for Montgomery when he entered his second season with the team. It appeared that his ankle was back at full strength which would make him a weapon in the Packers passing game. But that all changed when the Packers top running backs, Eddie Lacy and James Starks, both fell to injury. Out of necessity, the former high school running back was forced into a role that he wasn’t expecting to play, but a position he showed some potential at. Montgomery would become the Packers top running back, rushing for 457 yards on 77 carries with a 5.9 yard per carry average. He also utilized his receiving ability out of the backfield, adding 44 catches for 348 yards. Although Montgomery once again battled a bum ankle, he did finish the season. And with that, Ty Montgomery as a running back became a thing.
Although still wearing the number 88, Montgomery spent this off-season transforming his body into that of a running back. He entered this season with a more chiseled body, with the expectations of absorbing more hits as a running back. But one half of a season doesn’t make a proven player at the position, which is why the Packers spent a fourth (Williams), a fifth (Jones), and a seventh (Devante Mays) round pick on running backs. Montgomery’s transformation wasn’t a slam dunk, and for the Packers it was a good thing they did prepare for that chance, because once again he was injured.
In week four against the Chicago Bears, Montgomery broke his ribs. He would return this season when Jones, his replacement, went down with a knee injury in the second Bears game of the season. But that was short lived, when he re-injured his ribs after running for a 37 yard touchdown run. This would be his last action of the season with the Packers eventually placing him on injured reserve, although it was due to a wrist injury. While out, Jones and Williams have proven to be more than capable to fill the running back role. Both are showing better vision than Montgomery and Williams is proving to be more durable. With both young players looking like the future of the Packers ground game, it has left Montgomery’s future very murky.
A Possible Switch Back to Wide Receiver
With it appearing that the Packers are now two deep at running back with Williams and Jones, it looks like there isn’t a spot in the Packers backfield for Montgomery. Which leads to the question, might the Packers look to switch Montgomery back to his natural wide receiver position.
It wouldn’t be out of the question to shift him back there. He would have to transform his body back to where it was, with less bulk, but he does have the capability of doing that. There is a position that Montgomery would fit, but it would mean parting with a proven commodity.
In 2014, Randall Cobb caught 91 balls for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. That season earned Cobb a new contract, which would pay him $13 million per season. But since then, Cobb’s numbers have declined. Although still a part of the Packers passing attack, especially with Rodgers under center, he still hasn’t lived up to his contract. The many critics of Thompson point out that he isn’t afraid to part with a player he deems earning too much and that isn’t playing up to his contract. If Thompson were to do so with Cobb, Montgomery could fill Cobb’s role, as the Packers first envisioned when they drafted him in 2015. Montgomery has shown that he can line up in the backfield, like Cobb does, and play out of the slot, although maybe not to Cobb’s ability. It is a possibility that Montgomery could find a home back at wide receiver.
Parting Ways Altogether With 88
Veteran wide receivers, especially ones that Rodgers trusts, are hard to come by. With that being said, the Packers just might keep Cobb, which would once again leave Montgomery without a place on the Packers roster. The Packers have a solid stable of wide receivers to go along with that, and Montgomery’s injury issues might make Thompson feel like they can move on without him. Montgomery has a lot of ability which he has shown in spurts. But if he can’t stay on the field, there isn’t a place for him on the Packers roster.
The Packers will have a lot of difficult decisions to make this off-season. Even if they do make the playoffs, it appears that the Packers need to make some changes. If they don’t, the Thompson naysayers will come out in full strength, something Packers fans should be used to hearing. One possible decision will be the status of Montgomery, which will come down to if he has a position to contribute and if he can stay healthy, both of which are two big what ifs.