McCarthy: Running Back Reps Will "Take Care of Themselves"

The Packers may have a carousel at running back this season, but unlike 2012, it's for all the right reasons.

It took a decimated backfield in 2012 for the team to cycle through the likes of Cedric Benson, Alex Green, and returning veteran Ryan Grant along with several others. Five different running backs carried the ball at least 30 times during that 11-5 campaign.

Similar makings await 2017, the only difference is the Packers may rotate their chess-pieces by choice, rather than being forced to.

At the moment, the Packers have presumed starter Ty Montgomery spearheading the charge. In the wing, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays—all 2017 draft picks—await their reps, along with undrafted rookies Kalif Phillips and William Stanback. The latter two would have to make a much, much superior case in order to see a glimpse of possibly cracking the 53-man roster in September.

They also have fullback Aaron Ripkowski, who is renowned in Green Bay as John Kuhn's successor and notoriously viewed by defensive cooradinators as a bulldozer. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2016 and tallied two touchdowns.

You need to be able to run the ball and do so efficiently, of course, but what head coach Mike McCarthy is looking for is someone who is capable of playing on third down.

"You want your running backs all to be a three-down player," McCarthy said Wednesday morning during his first presser of training camp. "You want the element of no-huddle available to you, you want to be able to turn that on any time you're in the game. That's always been a focus and that's the way they're trained."

The Packers were just behind the middle of the pack in rushing first downs per game in 2016, averaging 5.6 per game, down from their 6.4 average in 2015, whereas the leading Buffalo Bills averaged 9.1 with their potent rushing attack. Green Bay did, however, finishing third in the league in third down conversion percentage behind New England and New Orleans.

"That's really the focus and really, what they do best, that comes down to play-calling and how you fit them into personnel groups and so forth. We're focusing on making sure these guys can play on third down."

With four tailbacks vying for carries as the team prepares for their first practice on Thursday, it's a toss-up as to who will get the most carries, even with Montgomery expected to lead the group. In a pass-heavy offense engineered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the desire for a traditional running back who needs 20-plus carries a game is minimal.

McCarthy isn't necessarily sure who will enter the season as the team's starting duo, whether it be Williams or Jones or even Mays backing up Montgomery, but he notes that injuries unfortunately typically clear up a somewhat hazy picture.

"We're obviously very young at the running back position," McCarthy said. "The reps will usually take care of themselves. The players in their availability and their performance each day will control who gets the reps."

After being the talk of the offseason, whether it be bold predictions from an analyst or one writer on the verge of starting a petition to get Montgomery to change his No. 88 because it's an "unfair advantage to the offense," the excitement and hype behind Montgomery's capabilities has many anxious to watch his performance throughout camp and possible preseason action.

Ty Montgomery during Packers OTAs. (Mark Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

"He stepped out in front and just keeps going," McCarthy said of the Packers running back, who will finally get his first full offseason at the position under his belt. "He's been able to focus on the position and he's very comfortable and understanding of the details and all the things he was asked to do. He looks good, I'm very pleased with the way he's stepped to the front of the class."

As noted by ESPN's Rob Demovsky Wednesday morning, Montgomery checked into training camp weighing heavier than he's ever been to prepare for his new role in the Packers' offense. He was clocked just a notch under 223 pounds at 222.8. Demovsky noted that the weight was "good" weight, observing that Montgomery is "broader across the chest, shoulders and arm yet lean in the rest of his body."

Montgomery is expected to just double his 77 attempts from his brief action in 2016 given the amount of diversity the Packers currently have at running back but don't be surprised if Montgomery proves to be more than a runner whose barrel overflows at 154 carries. With the way he's looked and prepared this offseason, he's seemingly more than capable of turning some heads.

__________________________

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].

NFL Categories: 
0 points

Comments (8)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
EdsLaces's picture

July 26, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Considering the whole ankle exploding situation a couple years ago it's so hard not to root for 88.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

July 26, 2017 at 01:31 pm

To "play on third down"; pass protection? Knowing the audibles? Receiving skills?
I think 88 has all that covered. Now GB needs at least one more to show he is capable as well. Gonna be a fun battle to watch.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 26, 2017 at 09:43 pm

"You want your running backs all to be a three-down player,"

Monty and Jones seem to qualify in most aspects, but no HB has proven or even suggested that they can provide quality pass protection. Reports are good on Monty's dedication to learning those nuances, but the rest of the players, even Monty himself, are a question mark. That's what TC is for, but not preseason games so much because teams play such vanilla defenses that our RBs might not even see even some vanilla stunts.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

July 27, 2017 at 06:45 pm

Agree, they have to prove it, but it can be learned. I remember (the immortal) Brandon Jackson went from terrible to excellent in pass protection. 88 certainly has the strength and attitude to handle it. Not a doubt in my mind.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Spock's picture

July 28, 2017 at 01:44 am

TK, great point. In fact, there was an article on Packers.com about Brandon Jackson serving as an intern and working with 88 on this! THAT makes me feel pretty confident that Ty will have this nailed by the time regular season comes around.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PatrickGB's picture

July 26, 2017 at 09:48 pm

"the weight was "good" weight, observing that Montgomery is "broader across the chest, shoulders and arm yet lean in the rest of his body".

I would prefer he had tree trunk legs like Mays and Stanback might have because I like the bruising back that forces defenses to crowd the line and open up passing lanes for the others. But that's just me. Regardless of size they also need to pass protect and even catch a few of them. Yet all in all we have a great bunch to choose from.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

July 27, 2017 at 06:47 pm

Yes, very intriguing. I miss the days in which the running back was the star of the show. How Billy Sims helped turn a crap Lion team into a playoff team.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

July 27, 2017 at 06:48 pm

Not that I take pleasure in watching Detroit succeed.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.