Choice, diversity defines Packers' backfield

Very few times in the last two decades have the Packers needed to question who the primary workhorse in their backfield is.

It's a role that has been commandeered by the likes of Dorsey Levens, Ahman Green, Ryan Grant and most recently, Eddie Lacy. For the first time since 2012, there isn't a solidified No. 1 running back in Green Bay.

The question floating in the minds of money is whether or not receiver-turned-tailback Ty Montgomery can handle the responsibilities of carrying out a full-time gig. Not just the duties, but the vigorous demands of the position as well.

Montgomery first saw full-fledged work at the position before his official transition from wide receiver in week seven against the Bears. He carried the ball nine times and averaged 6.67 yards per carry, however, it was the last time he'd see at least nine carries until week 14 against the Seahawks.

Even despite the brief glimpse into Montgomery's capabilities - specifically a 16-touch, 162-yard day against the Bears once again in week 15 - the Packers took it upon themselves to reinforce the situation behind Montgomery.

Enter Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays - the three running backs drafted by the Packers in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds respectively back in April.

A far cry from the jumbo platter of a mess that was Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks and DuJuan Harris five seasons ago.

Each tailback offers their own traits that could prove beneficial in 2017, even for a pass-heavy team who ran the ball the fourth-fewest amount of times in the league last season.

Williams, a runner who refuses to go down. Jones, a Brandon Jackson-esque pass blocker with quick feet and Mays, who shares similar characteristics to that of Lacy, the position's previous lead-runner.

With the influx of added talent at the running back position, the Packers may lose mediocrity and gain fluidity; at least on paper.

Williams still needs to put ink to paper and cash in on a rookie deal with the team, as he is currently one of three Packers draft picks who have yet to sign from their 10-man class.

A reason for Williams' prolonged negotiation process can possibly be attributed to his appearance at the NFL's annual Rookie Premiere.

After going from Lacy, Starks, John Crockett, Knile Davis, Don Jackson and Christine Michael, the Packers have defined what it means to have a carousel of running backs at their disposal.

For the first time in what feels like eons, they'll have a little more choice to work with.

Despite the pass-first tendencies of the Packers - even while being coached by former Packers running back and current offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett - whoever emerges as the team's lead dog in the backfield is going to be one of the more interesting training camp storylines.

Another name in the mix to watch is UCF running back William Stanback, notorious for his vicious truck stick on a Rutgers defender in 2013. 

At 6'0", 231 pounds, Stanback earned All-CIAA first-team honors playing for Virginia Union in 2016. He was a threat as a runner, but even more so as a dual-threat receiving option out of the backfield.

Stanback was signed by the Packers in their post-draft undrafted free agent haul and just adds another name to the list of players to watch when camp begins.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (14)

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Packer_Fan's picture

May 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm

The RB position to me is in transition. I don't believe Montgomery is a 300 carry RB. And he shouldn't be. No need to wear him out or get him hurt. As far as I am concerned, Ripowski can be in the mix at the start of the season until the rookies can show who is worthy to be trusted. With Rodgers, the new TE's and the WR's the Pack have, we don't just have to cram it down the throat of the defense. It seems to me that the dinking and dunking in the middle of the season last year, got the offense running again. So use the mismatches the TE and WR give and use it to set up the run. And run to set up the pass. Imagine the alignment of Montgomery, two TE's and two WR's. Power running formation and great passing one with the TE talent. Then imagine sticking Janis or Davis in there doing fly patterns to stretch the defense. All sorts of mismatches based on what the defense does. I hope that MM doesn't get stuck on one focus, but opens up the playbook to fully use the talent.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

May 23, 2017 at 01:04 pm

Zachary, another "jumbo platter of a mess" is your post: You are in great need of an editor. As to how the five rookie RBs will adapt to the Packers and NFL is anyone guess. It's a good bet three of them won't make the roster.

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Cartwright's picture

May 24, 2017 at 05:04 am

You need an editor too. It's written anyone's guess, not anyone guess. Just sayin.

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CJ Bauckham's picture

May 23, 2017 at 01:30 pm

God, Benson was 5 years ago? Time flies.

Really excited to see all these guys play

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Since'61's picture

May 23, 2017 at 02:06 pm

In this era of the NFL you don't need a #1 or primary RB. You need versatile players who can rotate in and carry the ball, make receptions out of the backfield and in the Packer's case provide additional blocking for Rodgers. Preferably Monty will not be used in blocking situations. Rip and another of the rookie RBs can take on that role. Jamaal Williams may prove to be the guy we want when we're trying to eat up the clock late in the game. As of now I envision Monty being utilized during the 1st half when we're trying to build a lead. Rip as the short yardage and blocking back and Williams as our chew up the clock back. Jones and/or Mays could stick as role players and provide depth. However, TC may provide different results. Maybe MM will feature a different back on each drive as he did with Lacy and Starks. It's all speculation until the season begins. Thanks, Since '61

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Matt Gonzales's picture

May 23, 2017 at 03:50 pm

It would be huge if we come into the season with a couple RBs that can handle all the responsibilities (running, pass protection, backfield routes, slot routes), or at least not be a liability in any of those areas. 2014 was great in that regard because the RB on the field didn't dictate what plays could be called (with some exceptions).

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 23, 2017 at 04:33 pm

I suspect that their abilities on Special Teams will also factor into who makes the club. Baring injury, I think Ripkowski will be the only official FB, but Mays will cross-train as his back-up. I'm wondering if any of the rookies will be looked at as kick or punt returners. Both Williams and Jones could be good prospects; they have good hands and are elusive. Williams' ability to jump-cut sideways while moving forward at full speed, could be very effective as a returner. Mays is the kind of hammer you want as a blocker and a tackler on returns.

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al bundy's picture

May 23, 2017 at 11:07 pm

We will have to let things play out before we find out that mental mike has his mind made up already and Monty will be the go to guy.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 23, 2017 at 11:29 pm

I see Mays and Stanback as Lacys replacement type back. However, the team probably has a different approach to the RB position. Its now pass, pass and then run. The RB's we keep will need to help utilize that plan. Blocking and receiving backs may be the best bet for that scheme.

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NickPerry's picture

May 24, 2017 at 05:26 am

There's an interesting piece on packerswire.com about Montgomery this morning. He reported at 220 pounds and the writer was commenting about how "Jacked Up" Montgomery looked.

He's a shade over 6 feet tall and 220 pounds. Can we PLEASE stop with the he's not big enough to be an every down RB?? Not only did Montgomery get bigger and stronger but he also spent a lot of time learning the position. IMO what he did last year was pretty amazing. He was able to do that on athletic ability and his instincts alone. Now after an offseason of LEARNING the position I for one am excited about the possibilities. I don't think it's going to be easy to get that kid off the field, not when he's tearing up defenses and getting up after every play.

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croatpackfan's picture

May 24, 2017 at 07:42 am

I'm with you. And I hope Mays will be 3rd RB. Packers need hammer...

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BPEARSON21's picture

May 24, 2017 at 10:40 am

If last seasons offensive production taught us anything it should be this: we don't need a good running back to be effective. (even though Montgomery was very good for us).

We didn't have 1 running back go for over 500 yards on the year but we still finished top 10 in total offense. What does that tell us? We don't need any of our running backs to be studs at all. We need RB who can block and give us 10-12 carries at most every game.

I think this is a great position for any running back to be in (especially rookie running backs or Ty who is still transitioning) because there is no pressure at all. Give us 500 yards rushing on the year and we are already more effective running the ball than we were last year.

Just please don't miss a block.

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Spock's picture

May 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

As NP says above, and I've been saying for a long time, Ty is NOT a small back. I don't understand the worry that he won't be up to taking the pounding of a full time back. Just puzzles the heck out of me. The RB battles in TC should be fun to see!

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holmesmd's picture

May 24, 2017 at 11:15 pm

Monty is really stacked up! He's 225lbs of solid muscle with single digit body fat. He's certainly big enough to run the ball full time. My only concern is his Sickle Cell issue:( If anything limits the pounding he'll be able to take, it will be the medical condition...certainly not his size or strength IMO.

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