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Overhaul at running back gives Pack plenty of options

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Overhaul at running back gives Pack plenty of options

Mike McCarthy has expressed supreme confidence in Ty Montgomery as the team’s feature back capable of carrying the load, but the front office’s overhaul at the position indicates Green Bay knew its depth was remarkably thin. 
 
It took half the season to eventually land on Montgomery after an ankle injury sent Eddie Lacy to injured reserve and oft-injured James Starks hit a wall. The team’s newfound balance at running back was a creation of circumstance, with the versatile Montgomery and slashing late-season signing Christine Michael earning their keep where Knile Davis couldn’t. Give credit to the team for discovering Montgomery’s proper fit in the backfield, but don’t assume the position change would have happened without running back injuries and ineffectiveness forcing the Packers’ hand. 
 
If indeed Montgomery is the lead back in this upcoming season, there’s plenty to be excited about. Take his 5.9 yards per carry, obvious vision and patience inside and out of the tackles, unexpected toughness and tackle-breaking ability, and propensity for big plays in limited opportunities. But Montgomery finished with 77 carries — just 10 more than the team’s second-leading rusher, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. 
 
The Packers chose wisely not to stand pat with the third-year, former Stanford wideout as their only option. A full five new backs will duke it out for what figures to be three halfbacks on the eventual 53-man active roster come September. When you take a closer look at the rookies, it’s almost as if Ted Thompson and Co. plugged in tape of recent Green Bay success stories to plot out what they wanted in a back. 
 
There’s a pair of less-pedigreed but nonetheless impressive power backs in fifth-round pick Devante Mays and tryout William Stanback. Both are powerful, neither are plodding, and both have quick feet. Make all the fat jokes you want, but Lacy played with a nimbleness that belied his belly size. These new additions appear to come from a similar mold. 
 
The two additions that this writer is most excited about are the first two draft picks added into the mix, fourth-rounder Jamaal Williams (BYU) and fifth-rounder Aaron Jones (UTEP). Also known as, respectively, Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson 2.0. 
 
Athletically those comparisons hold up, but there are reasons to be even more excited about the newcomers than their comparative counterparts. Grant was a big run waiting to happen during his prime with the Packers, busting off big plays in his back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. A one-cut and slash runner, Grant had a deceptive second gear. The typical groans from fans regarding his game was in regards to vision. It might be a convenient argument, but so the thinking went Grant had a habit of running into his blockers. When he was decisive, picked a lane and went, he was highly effective. 
 
Perhaps the most impressive part of Williams’ game is his vision. Unlike his 40-time or 3-cone (or any other combine measure), vision is unquantifiable — but you know it when you see it. It’s because of Williams’ savvy reading plays, adjusting on the fly and seizing the opportunity that he’s able to extract every drop of his less-than-remarkable athleticism. Put simply, his “natural” ability makes him one of the highest-ceiling running backs in the entire draft. Plenty of dynamic athletes — guys who impress in gym shorts — don’t play that way on the field. Williams performs much better than his combine data would indicate. 
 
As far as Jones, he’s a half-inch short and a few hundredths of a 40-yard-dash from being a second-round value. He’s arguably one of the best pass catchers in this year’s impressive crop of backs. His short-area burst and agility are premium. Watch the highlight tape and you’ll see a guy who isn’t the biggest or strongest or fastest, but who nonetheless is a big-play machine. How’s another pro comparison — Priest Holmes? (Thanks to Matt Waldman for that one.)
 
Williams and Jones are rookies, so projecting their impact — especially now in a crowded running backs room — is anyone’s guess. But running back is a young man’s game and compared to other positions it’s not uncommon for rookies to make a splash right away. 
 
The Packers don’t appear poised to make the same mistake again. Running back may be a devalued position compared to where it once was, but if the league takes a committee approach then you had better have a committee. Whoever rises to the top when the season starts will provide much-needed value. 
 
Here’s betting that Williams and Jones rise faster than the rest. 
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dobber's picture

I think there's a definite RBBC brewing for 2017. Who's in the committee is yet to be determined.

Savage57's picture

Unsettled would be a good word to describe the situation. But for anyone to say with certainty in May the Packers will suck or will be great at the RB position next season is wasting their time commenting here.

Anyone who can see the future and is weighing in on what the Packers fate will be at position groups is selling himself way short and too cheap.

The TKstinator's picture

I'm going with somewhere between "suck" and "great", with high confidence in my accuracy.

Ben Pearson's picture

I'm super pumped for Ty and the other new coming RB's. As a rookie RB in this league there is no better team to start your career with than the Packers. The Pack were top 10 in total offense last season while being 20th in rushing offense. We didn't have 1 back to rush over 500 yards. My point is this, there is simply no pressure on a running back in the Packers offense. We don't need a good running game whatsoever to be effective.

Any production we get from any of our running backs is just a cherry on top. I can't think of a better situation for a rookie RB to walk into knowing we don't need any of them to be studs in order for our offense to succeed. It's recipe that breeds a nice stress-free development environment for a rookie RB.

LayingTheLawe's picture

I guess the article is a nice way of saying we don't know who is going to run the ball for the Packers in 2017.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

It says a bit more than that. This has the makings of a deep, talented group. The way injuries hit running backs, that's a good thing.

I just wish we had one elite bellcow, but oh well.

RCPackerFan's picture

I really, really like Williams and Jones. Mays intrigues me but I want to see him in person more.

Williams reminds me of Frank Gore when running. Has the quick cuts, and great vision.
Williams is more of the traditional RB. Would be great with a FB in front of him. And also really good with the TE's we now have.

Jones reminds me of James White. Great receiving ability, plays fast can make cuts but also run with power.
The thing I really like about Jones is he is like a perfect fit for our offense. With the amount of shotgun that is used, he is a RB that can be effective with that formation. Similar to how Montogmery was used last year and how White is used in New England.

I really like the RB's they have brought in.

RCPackerFan's picture

None taken.

i have seen a lot more videos of Jones and Williams. I haven't been able to see as much on Mays.

Plus Mays experience against top competition was limited.

He may end up being the best of the group. His combination of weight/speed is the best of the 3.

I just want to see him more of him.

At this point I do expect more out of Williams and Jones.

RCPackerFan's picture

Does 'In person' have to be taken so literal?

You are correct about Utah State vs BYU vs UTEP. They are all about the same level of competition.
But the difference is Mays only played 1 full season at Utah State. He played 6 games the next season. Before that he played Junior College.

Both Jones and Williams played a lot longer against the better competition. They have a lot more production against better talent. Not taking away from Mays, they just have faced better players longer.

Thats why I feel better about them as players because i have seen more on them.

Look. I like Mays, I like all 3 of them. I just know more about Jones and Williams mostly by the amount of football they have played against better competition.

Well to be fair, the draft is about drafting the best players available.
Mays may end up being the best of the 3. He also may be cut at the end of training camp. We shall see. That is the part I'm looking forward to. Seeing all 3 of these guys in training camp/preseason.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I like the Gore comparison. Williams is more upright, but otherwise the similarities are obvious. Here's hoping.

I too want to see more of Mays, since tape means less when a guy hasn't stayed healthy. He looks like a killer on tape, but...

...let's see how he holds up in camp.

Colin_C's picture

Can't wait to see Williams on the field, but don't sleep on the UDFA William Stanback they just signed. 6' 230lbs 4.48. Got kicked out of D1 for drug violations. Turned his life around and ran 1300 yards his senior season at DII level. He's "my guy" to make the 53.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'd love to see that. This is America, where we love personal turnaround stories.

Since '61's picture

At this point anything we think we have with the new RBs is pure speculation. While Monty was partially responsible for rejuvenating the offense last season we still have a relatively small sample size for evaluating his performance. We don't even know yet if the new RBs, not including Monty, can learn the playbook well enough to be effective. Beyond that we won't know how good they are until they play in a regular season NFL game. Having said that, I feel much better about the RB position group than I did at any time in 2016. I'm glad that Lacy, Michael and Jackson are all gone. We have fresh legs, we know what we have in RIP, and we can look forward to a much more versatile group of RBs than we have had for a long time in GB. This group of RBs may prove to be the best group of RBs for the Packers during the MM era. However, still a long way to go before we can actually evaluate what we have. Thanks, Since '61

Handsback's picture

First off let me say the mere fact that Green Bay turned to their receiver corp to pull out a RB that had that much success is quite remarkable. Since the days of the SB, I don't think this has been done very successful.
Second, TT had one RB and one FB on the roster he could count on. So adding three more RBs wasn't that drastic of a move taken into account the lack of depth.
Third, all three of these guys are from pretty small schools (BYU maybe not so much) and while we might not have seen much film on them, the scouts have seen plenty.
I'm no expert and didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express either, but those three guys have some real kick-butt in their game. Even Jones hits that hole and doesn't appear to be a bit shy about running over a defender. The reason I like Mays is he runs like Lacy, but with wiggle. He's gotten a lot bigger (muscle) in the lower body over the past two years and seems to be even faster. He even talks like he has a chip on his shoulder. I have seen Jones play and I would hate to be a DB and have to face him one-on-one. I think they would look very foolish grasping at air. Williams is a banger and comparisons to Grant are very appropriate.
So Monty and Rip will be leading a very determined group of RBs into next year's playoffs. It's going to be a lot of fun!!!!!

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