Countdown to Camp: No. 1 not in doubt, but who's No. 2?

Posted Jul 12, 2017

Competition at running back features five rookies behind Ty Montgomery

This is the second in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster, position by position, leading up to training camp. The series continues with the running backs.

GREEN BAY – It’s been a while since the Packers opened training camp not knowing who their No. 1 running back would be.

It isn’t in doubt for 2017, either, not with Head Coach Mike McCarthy announcing right after Green Bay drafted three running backs in late April that Ty Montgomery would head the group.

Montgomery transitioned from wide receiver and took over for the injured Eddie Lacy and James Starks around midseason last year. He rushed for 310 yards over the final five regular-season games, added two rushing touchdowns in the playoffs at Dallas, and did nothing during the offseason to suggest he would lose the top spot.

Montgomery spent OTAs and minicamp learning some finer points of pass protection from one of the best to ever handle the duty in Mike McCarthy’s offense, coaching intern and former running back Brandon Jackson. He also took on a leadership role in a young running back room despite entering his first season in the full-time role.

It’s his job to run with, literally and figuratively, leaving the question for the Packers in 2017 surrounding who’s No. 2.

There are candidates aplenty, with Green Bay selecting BYU’s Jamaal Williams (fourth round), UTEP’s Aaron Jones (fifth round) and Utah State’s Devante Mays (seventh round) on the final day of the draft.

Toss in undrafted rookies Kalif Phillips from Charlotte and William Stanback from Virginia Union and the competition promises to be intense from start to finish throughout the preseason.

Most of the attention will fall on the three draft picks, whose order on the depth chart so far is based on little more than draft status. Without pads in offseason workouts, running back is a difficult position to gauge until the carries and other duties are live in preseason action.

That said, all three draft picks have interesting backgrounds.

Williams was suspended for an honor code violation at BYU and could have transferred but chose to return. He went on to become the school’s all-time leading rusher.

Jones played in college with his twin brother, Alvin, a linebacker, and admittedly struggled with the decision to declare for the draft a year early. But with both the single-season and career rushing records at UTEP in his name, it was time to move on.

Mays took a long, tough road, trying two junior colleges in Texas before landing a Division I offer. He then battled through injuries last year just to get to this point, where he brings a compact, 230-pound frame without the wear and tear of most feature backs.

It’s anyone’s job to win, really, making this the most intriguing backfield battle in Green Bay since Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were drafted in 2013 and joined Starks on the roster.

At fullback, the Packers unveiled an emerging star and fan favorite last season in Aaron Ripkowski, the former sixth-round pick from Oklahoma who scored his first four pro touchdowns (three regular season, one postseason) in 2016.

Ripkowski is proving to be a more-than-adequate replacement for John Kuhn and has received hearty praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers for doing whatever he’s asked and doing it well.

The Packers also carried a second fullback on the roster for the second half of last year. Joe Kerridge was an undrafted rookie from Michigan who showed his share of aptitude on special teams, and he’s back to try to re-earn his roster spot as well.

QBs: All four have goals in mind

You May Also Be Interested in...

blog comments powered by Disqus

Recent Videos

  • Packers Life: The Iceman

    (22:30) Posted Feb 16, 2018

    In 1998, Chuck Liddell was a little-known mixed martial artist at the dawn of his UFC career. He worked security at Super Bowl XXXII, watching his favorite team on the biggest stage. For the next 12 years, he rose to the top of the UFC and became a household name. When the Packers made it to Super Bowl XLV, Chuck returned to the big game as a UFC Hall of Famer to watch his beloved team win their 13th world championship. Hear from "The Iceman" on his unparalleled journey.

  • Packers Unscripted: Free agency philosophy

    (22:15) Posted Feb 16, 2018

    Mike and Wes discuss different views of free agency, philosophically speaking, and they cast their votes for Peak Performance of the Year.

  • Back in the saddle

    (18:35) Posted Feb 15, 2018

    With 2017 in the rear-view mirror and the scouting combine on the horizon, Wes and Mike tackle the fans’ offseason questions