INDIANAPOLIS – While the world debates which position should be listed next to Ty Montgomery’s name, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is more focused on the possibilities in 2018.
“He’s a multi-positional player,” said McCarthy at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He’s a running back, but he gives us great flexibility to use him so many different ways. That won’t change.”
Montgomery became a household name in 2016 after his in-season switch from receiver to running back had fantasy-football fans clamoring to classify the 6-foot, 216-pound playmaker.
Stepping in for an injured Eddie Lacy and James Starks, Montgomery’s 5.94 yards per carry were most among running backs with more than 75 carries, which ranks second in franchise history to Tobin Rote’s 6.88-yard average in 1951.
The unexpected production gave Montgomery the pole position to be the Packers’ starting running back this past season despite Green Bay taking three players – Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays – at the position in the 2017 NFL Draft.
However, a medley of rib and wrist injuries limited Montgomery to 71 carries for 273 yards and three touchdowns in eight games before he was placed on injured reserve Dec. 1. It was the second time in Montgomery’s three years the former third-round pick’s season ended prematurely due to injury.
Williams and Jones each enjoyed individual success running out of Green Bay’s backfield in Montgomery’s absence, but they also dealt with knee injuries of their own along the way.
McCarthy, who has a penchant for every-down backs in the Packers’ no-huddle offense, keeps a depth chart in his office with the running backs’ pictures, numbers and playing time, which has been heavily influenced by health issues the past two years.
“(Montgomery) has had availability issues every year, but he’s established himself as a multiple-position player,” said McCarthy of Montgomery. “I think he’s really gotten better in his natural run instinct. Obviously what he can do in and out of the backfield is at a high level.
“The two young guys, they don’t have it figured out, either. They both had to fight through injuries to play. That’s why you need more than three running backs.”
Attrition and situational football have changed the landscape for NFL running backs in recent years, with many teams opting to feature upwards of four on any given week.
This year’s Super Bowl representatives, New England and Philadelphia, were two of the better examples of that approach. They combined for 11 backs on their 53-man rosters by season’s end; nine of whom were active in the Super Bowl.
When healthy, Montgomery has proven to be a multi-faceted playmaker who can give defensive coordinators 60-minute headaches. A student of both the Packers’ receivers and running back rooms, the Stanford graduate has been a matchup nightmare when motioning out of the backfield.
Entering his first offseason as the Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst told reporters in Indianapolis he wants to continue capitalizing on those kind of intangibles.
“I think we’re big on trying to acquire as many versatile players — whether it be on offense or defense — as we can, and Ty is one of those guys,” said Gutekunst of Montgomery, who has amassed 1,985 all-purpose yards in 29 regular-season games. “I think he can do a multitude of things. I don’t think you have to pigeonhole him in one thing.”
The Packers are in good standing with their backfield after last year’s renovation. While it remains to be seen how Green Bay will deploy its running backs now, Montgomery still figures to play a prominent role in the direction of the offense in 2018.
“Ty is a very, very versatile player,” Gutekunst said. “I think having a guy like that (means) we can kind of plug him in where we need him. I thought he was an outstanding running back. Making that transition is not an easy one, and I thought he did it fairly quickly.”