Jobs Are Won and Lost, Taken and Earned in Training Camp

Positional battles are won and lost in training camp, and the Packers have a handful of them going into 2017. One, in particular, stands out among the rest.

Ty Montgomery leads a group of young running backs who all wouldn't mind being the front-runner at tailback, especially clear favorite for the backup gig, Jamaal Williams. 

Williams is one of three running backs drafted by the Packers in April and one of six currently on the active roster entering camp. It's expected that Montgomery won't be giving up his job anytime soon, though.

He spent a large part of Saturday's practice learning to perfect his pass protection ability, which is going to be a massive part of his full-time transition to running back. It's something he's never had to truly invest his time into working on, so the occasional struggles will rear their head in every so often, even more so in camp.

"I'm not going to really apologize for not being the best in pass-pro when I've never really had to do it before," Montgomery said after Saturday's practice. "I definitely think I got better today and made some strides."

It's vital to Montgomery's potential future as the team's three-down running back. If not, they always have Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays waiting in the wing. The other two aforementioned running backs, Kalif Phillips and William Staback, are undrafted rookies who are just hoping to at least cling on to the practice squad if their unlikely hopes of making the 53-man roster fall through.

The battle in Green Bay's backfield is one that has been the most intriguing entering camp considering it's been the talk of the offseason. Their running back "dilemma" has been dubbed as one of their biggest weaknesses, even despite the consistently growing confidence in Montgomery.

Montgomery checked into camp weighing just under 223 pounds, the heaviest he's ever been. Now no longer a wide receiver, he bulked up in order to help deflect some of the blows that the traditional running back takes in the trenches. Based off of the brief practice clips and the extensive array of photos, Montgomery is looking more than ready to deal with the contact.

Saturday was his first time practicing in pads since January.

"I felt good," Montgomery said. "Just a little bit more solid, a little more stronger, I'm definitely able to keep my balance more. I think that's something that comes from playing at the time that I did and having that time at the end of the season and training this offseason. Now, with the pads coming on I'm definitely excited. I'm just going to continue to get better: I know that for a fact."

The big factor with Montgomery being a multifaceted player is that opposing defenses now have to scheme for him, whether he'd be taking carries out of the backfield or motioning out wide as a receiver, which he is more than capable of doing. He noticed teams were doing that as early as last year, and a lot of the time, it created matchup problems for defenses.

The last thing any defense would want is a linebacker matched up against the versatile Montgomery.

According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Montgomery went up against inside linebacker Blake Martinez in the first one-on-one blocking drills of the day—and Martinez skated by. It's the first of what will be many reps for the Packers' young running backs to take a step day-by-day in the pass protection aspect of their positions. 

"I had a couple bad reps because I got overly-aggressive, some technique stuff and stuff I need to learn," Montgomery said. "I got better as the reps went along. I had some good ones in there, so, you know, it's going to be fun."

Learning these instinctive qualities may also be what makes or breaks one of these six running backs in earning a roster spot. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is no joke.

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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 (5)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 30, 2017 at 12:44 am

Monty went 1-4 in pass pro per tweets from practice. The rest of the RBs were also bad initially, but settled down as the drill continued, again per tweets. It looks like none of the rookies are polished pass protectors, but that is what TC is for. I will be more concerned in two weeks, but one probably should figure that pass pro from the HBs is not going to be consistent this season with this personnel. At least Monty and Mays have good size for it, and Williams and Jones appear to have enough size.

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Turophile's picture

July 30, 2017 at 02:20 pm

Pass pro is not an easy task for RBs. It is, however critical in persuading an offensive coordinator (or in Green Bay's case, head coach) to give you meaningful reps.

I would guess that the Packers would prefer a slightly less dynamic RB, if their pass pro was noticeably better.

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HankScorpio's picture

July 30, 2017 at 07:56 am

Back in his rookie year (a decade ago!), Brandon Jackson was so bad at pass protection there was talk he may get cut (as a 2nd rounder!!). Of course he did not get cut but that deficiency meant he did not see much of the field. After some time and effort, pass protection became his calling card and he was able to function at a high level in the passing game, even though his run game ability was not what anyone hoped for.

Hopefully, all of the RBs are taking the message to heart that protecting Rodgers well is their most sure path to getting on the field. Conversely, the inability to protect Rodgers well is their most sure path to being waived.

The fact is that for all the lip service about being able to run the ball, it would be crazy to shift the offensive focus away from Rodgers and the passing game. So guys need to function well in the passing game out of the backfield to be of anything more than very limited usefulness.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

July 30, 2017 at 02:40 pm

Unless Montgomery continues to go left when the play goes right or he's a total disaster blocking he is the every down back to start the season. There are plenty of camp competitions going - but at the RB position the competition is to see who is the number 2 back and going to get playing time spelling Montgomery.

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holmesmd's picture

July 31, 2017 at 09:19 am

The Packers frequently line up TE as H-backs on passing downs and Kendricks can do that very effectively with his size and speed. I'm not worried.

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