Packers RB Competition Will Be a Battle Royal

After Ty Montgomery, there is going to be a free-for-all for playing time in in the Packers backfield. 

The Green Bay Packers are going to have a lot of interesting positional battles to watch in the coming months, but none should be more entertaining or more wide open than at running back.

For a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, Green Bay is counting quite heavily on ball carriers with little or no NFL experience. Ty Montgomery, who seems like a near lock to be the opening-day starter, is the most seasoned. He has 80 career rushing attempts for 471 yards (5.9 YPC).

Yet, despite being green at the position, the Packers don’t have a lack of talent. The former wide receiver turned running back, said in an interview recently, he’s close to 220 pounds and has the look of a legit starter. Add that to a talented rookie class and there is definitely some promise.

Montgomery and the Packers will also have the benefit of him practicing at running back for an entire offseason. He can learn some of the nuances of the position and sounds like he already has found ways to improve his game.

However, after Montgomery, the depth chart at RB is wide open. Jamaal Williams, the Packers fourth-round pick seems like a sound bet to earn some carries, but fellow rookies Aaron Jones (UTEP) and Devante Mays (Utah St) will also have something to say about playing time.

Heck, even rookie free agents such as Kalif Phillips (Charlotte) and William Stanback (Virginia Union) have a chance to work their way into the mix. In truth, it’s going to be a free-for-all, but the real action won’t start until training camp, because running back is one position that’s hard to judge if you aren’t going full speed.

In Montgomery, the Packers have a dual-threat option, who is shifty, but packs a punch. If you think number 88 can’t break tackles, go back and watch the tape from a season ago. He’s a physical runner and while he needs to get better at getting the tough yards between the tackles, the ground game is safe in his hands.

The biggest question to me, is will the depth behind Montgomery hold up.  

Williams is certainly capable. He’s been the primary ball carrier for BYU the past few years and is a hard-charging, decisive runner. He’s an ideal fit for Green Bay’s zone scheme and should have every chance to win the No. 2 job.

Yet, Jones, who is a skilled receiver and Mays, who has is arguably the best athlete of all the backs, will both have something to say.

When the Packers took Mays in the seventh round, it seemed strange. After all, they had already picked two running backs, did they really need another?

Apparently, they felt they did. And hey, when you are trying to find a diamond in the rough, why not take three cracks at it instead of two? It will simply add to the competition that already stands to be fascinating.  

Running back was neglected a year ago by the Packers front office and with some injuries, it put the team in a desperate position. In 2017, Green Bay was determined not to let that happen and soon, we will see if the Packers have avoided repeating that mistake.

The position seems improved, but there are still lots of questions, questions that won’t be answered until the pads come on and the backs finally get a chance to show what they can do.

Let the battle royal at running back, begin. 

 

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Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Comments (31)

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Nick Perry's picture

May 28, 2017 at 05:49 am

I don't believe there will be much of a "Battle Royal" at the RB position at all, I think Montgomery has the position locked up. Not because McCarthy named him the starter already, but because IMO he'll be the best RB on the Packers at the start, middle, and end of the 2017 season.
The biggest complaint I've heard from my fellow fans here and other sites was Montgomery's size and if he'll hold up. I'll give you the "If he holds up", but Montgomery is more than big enough to handle the workload. I'd say the training all offseason to play the position and the extra 5 pounds he's put on will help with the holding up. At least as much as 5 pounds actually can help.
Montgomery is a shade over 6 feet tall and 220 pounds. If you look at all the top RB's in the NFL (Bell, Johnson, Elliott, Gurley, Gordon, McCoy for examples) Montgomery is within one inch and about 5 pounds of them all.
The only thing I'm "Comparing" here is size. I'm not putting him in the same class, not yet. Montgomery just needs the opportunities. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Montgomery put up comparable overall numbers if given those opportunities.
I'm happy TT addressed the RB position this year and added the players he did. I just think 2017 is the year of Ty Montgomery.

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Chris Peterson's picture

May 28, 2017 at 06:32 am

I agree with you on Monty. I think he's for sure the starter and the main ball carrier. I don't think there is much doubt about that. I just think after that it's a wide open battle for snaps. I can see any of those rookies at least the draft picks getting the job. And I think Williams and Mays especially are dark horses. They are big, physical runners in the 4.5 range. I think they have all the physical tools.

This year's RB class was considered super deep. And so I think it was no coincidence that GB nabbed 3 backs. I think they all, provided all avoid injury, make the 53-man roster.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:37 am

A minor note, Chris: I think you need an "e" at the end of "Royal."

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Chris Peterson's picture

May 28, 2017 at 09:17 am

That's only if it's plural. This is just one Battery Royal. Lol.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 29, 2017 at 12:52 am

The plural is battles royal. Royal is the adjective modifying the noun battle. Adjectives in general don't are not pluralized. One would write that there are going to be big battles, not battle bigs. The "e" the end denotes the feminine of royal in French. Royale usually denotes the finest, frequently in autos such as the Bugatti Royale, but also, infamously, cheeseburgers (see link):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLtwFugudZE

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Chris Peterson's picture

May 28, 2017 at 06:42 am

This year really reminds me of 2007. That year we had Brandon Jackson, Deshawn Wynn and Ryan Grant all come on the scene at one point or another.

Jackson.was viewed as a bust. And he was a disappointment in the fact that he never earned the starting job but he was decent during the SB run. 8 catches and 77 yards and TD in 2010 playoffs. Caught a TD vs Eagles in wildcard round. He was also good on ST by then. Not worth 2nd Rd pick, but decent contribution. Wouldn't have won that SB without his pass Protecting or that TD.

Anyways off on a tangent, I see this a bit like 07, except much better off. Monty is clear starter, just gonna be a battle to see who gets snaps behind him, and how much of the load he carries himself.

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Chris Peterson's picture

May 28, 2017 at 06:47 am

I agree with it being year of Monty. I said in another comment on another post here, he is going to get 1,200 yards (900 rush and 300) receiving. I could easily see him getting (1,000 rush, 400 receiving) this season, just needs to stay healthy. He's bulky. He can handle punishment, just it's tough for any body to hold up with 200 some carries and not get nicks and bruises. Lots oh hits. We will see I'm confident.

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murf7777's picture

May 30, 2017 at 09:50 am

Totally agree but I estimate 1500+ all purpose yards. Let's focus on how many times he touches the rock and not how many rushing attempts he gets. His strength is versatility and I think MM will have a field day showing that this year.

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Savage57's picture

May 28, 2017 at 06:55 am

The Packers have a guy coming into camp as their #1 RB who basically played half a season at the position because he was forced to by injury.

Remove his high (162 yards) and low (1 yard) outliers and he was a 10 carry for 50-60 yards a game back. Hardly a lead pipe lock as as #1 running back for any NFL team.

Also playing into the mix will be finding out who can fill the 3rd down role and come halfway close to keeping Aaron Rodgers from getting killed on the blitz.

It's idiotic to say Montgomery has a lock on anything. One need look no further than the Packers spending 3 picks on the position thirty days ago.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:05 am

I think picking three RBs in the draft said the following: 1. We have a starter, but we've been burned by injuries.
2. We really liked all three (Williams, Jones, Mays).
3. The odds are good that at least one will be injured significantly enough to be put on Injured Reserve before the season begins, OR will not get enough carries in the Pre-season, so we can try to hide him on the Practice Squad.
I can't wait to see the rookies in real NFL action!

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:34 am

Agreed on everything, though I wonder how long one of these guys would last on the PS in a league where running backs go down frequently.

Do you expect Jones to compete for returning kickoffs?

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Turophile's picture

May 28, 2017 at 09:28 am

The Packers have learned the folly of fielding only two RBs at the start of the season, and are unlikely to repeat that soon.

My guess is two RBs in the draft were semi-planned (ie the Packers hoped beforehand to get two somewhere, if fair value was there), while the third was not really pre-planned, just the best value pick, at that point.

The Packers were also lucky to get two RBs with such potential after the draft, but it's the kind of luck good teams get, who are thorough in the rookie acquisition process, and have a history of giving undrafted guys a good chance.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 29, 2017 at 01:17 am

Drafting 3 RBs certainly will produce competition as each has a definite skill set, but it isn't necessarily a sign of strength. It more likely means we couldn't find one player who combines all or most of the characteristics desired. As an example of what I mean and not advocating for it, had we taken Mixon, there is no way we would have taken 2 more RBs. We might have taken Mixon and a flyer late on a scatback like Jones or a bruiser like Mays, but not both.

I wrote the same thing about WRs last year. It might be that we keep 7 WRs on the 53 just because they are all so good, but it is more likely that the staff can only identify 3 NFL caliber WRs out of the 7, and are hoping that out of the primordial soup of the last 4 guys on the list one or two more real WRs evolves.

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4thand1's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:21 am

Yes drafting 3 RB's will create competition. Monty isn't changing his number ? hmmmmmm. A full back too, no way the Pack goes with 5 rb's on the roster.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:29 am

I predict 4 total, with one getting hurt in camp.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:30 am

My big concern isn't running back, but rather, the offensive line. This is a pass-blocking unit that offers few holes and little punch in the run game.

Maybe some young up-and-comers like Spriggs and Amichia can offer more punch, but I doubt Amichia is ready.

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Nick Perry's picture

May 28, 2017 at 07:42 am

Good point, the Packers will always have linemen who are excellent pass blockers. If they can run block it's all the better but Job #1 is protecting Rodgers. Losing Sitton and then Lang hasn't / won't help the situation either.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 28, 2017 at 08:01 am

No, they were our two best run blockers. Here's hoping the young bulls develop quickly.

Question: With Amichia being a left-side guy in college who sports great athleticism and could benefit from a year of NFL coaching, is Lane Taylor still a lock to be re-signed?

I think we'll keep him, but maybe I'm too high on Taylor.

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Nick Perry's picture

May 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

They said his best position would probably be Guard in the NFL. I think Taylor is pretty close to a lock, especially if Thompson doesn't ride off in the sunset after this years SB Victory! ; )

When you consider Evans age and the need being there again next year for O-Line help, I can't imagine them letting him walk unless he really took a step back which I doubt will happen.

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worztik's picture

May 28, 2017 at 12:10 pm

ALP... I think lining up with 2 TE sets will create a diverse and surprising look to our opponents D... I predict that, at times, they all just run for cover with their hair on fire... just sayin'...

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4zone's picture

May 28, 2017 at 09:26 am

In Monty's first year one thing stood out to me. He would run the same plays as Cobb but where Cobb would try to duck or juke a tackler, Monty would run him over. He was like Cobb on steroids (of course not laterally). He could juke too but when he went hard, the impact always drove the defender back. He will do well and I like our depth options too. Question will be who can pick up the offense fastest and contribute soonest?

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Bedrock's picture

May 28, 2017 at 09:33 am

I agree with what Andrew said above about the run-blocking of the line.
The running back situation is likely for backup and situational calls. None will see playing time if they cannot pass block. GB has already shown they'd rather have someone that can be trusted against the blitz- like they did in the past with Kuhn and Rip-especially in obvious passing situations.
Don't forget special teams too. If these likely backups offer nothing on special teams, it may not matter if they can run.

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Colin_C's picture

May 28, 2017 at 10:09 am

Monty will almost certainly be the #1 back week one, but don't sleep on Stanback to make the 53. 5'11'', 230lbs, 4.55 forty, a really good 6.90 3-cone drill, and 130 ypg average his senior season. Oh, and then there's this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7zAvSlU9B0

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croatpackfan's picture

May 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm

I wonder how he would handle Brice?

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Colin_C's picture

May 28, 2017 at 05:28 pm

I think Brice would probably do pretty well :-) That DB had absolutely terrible tackling technique.

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A Pickled Packer's picture

May 28, 2017 at 04:57 pm

My concern with Ty is if can hold up to the punishment. He has been injured and in his first year was out for most of the season and that was as a receiver. Can a former WR convert to RB and be the number 1 back for an entire season? Does anyone know a WR who converted to RB and was any good? I can't think of one.

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Icebowler's picture

May 28, 2017 at 08:22 pm

If there is any position in football where rookies can come in and contribute right away, it's RB. The real competition will be who can pick up blitz's the best. Jamaal Williams is probably a lock, but 3rd or 4th backup RB's are up for grabs. We now have better blocking TE's and two good FB's. On third and short, and goal line situations, I see the Packers often using a two TE and two FB formation to punch or pass it into the end zone or get the 1st down.

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packrulz's picture

May 29, 2017 at 05:30 am

I just assume there will be injuries, just like every other year. I hope the keep Monty, Williams, Jones, Mays, and stash Stanback on the practice squad. That being said, McCarthy's play calling could be more deceptive. He could throw in more sweeps and screens.

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murf7777's picture

May 30, 2017 at 09:44 am

I highly doubt they will keep 4RB and 1FB. They need the roster spot for other positions. Just because we had multiple injuries at the position last year doesn't mean it will happen again.

I also disagree with the writers statement..."Running back was neglected a year ago by the Packers front office and with some injuries, it put the team in a desperate position". We had two quality RB and one backup last year and when the top two went down of course we would be thin and a weakness at that position! If any team loses their two positional starters to injuries that position will probably become a weakness for the team. With the salary cap and 53 roster spots it is set up that any team can go from a positional strength to weakness in one week! No GM can plan for that. Thank god we had Monty last year.

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Rudedawg67's picture

May 29, 2017 at 12:17 pm

I hope that Williams and Mays both step up and take over the RB duties because Montgomery could do alot more damage playing the slot receiver if given the chance. He is bigger, stronger, and as quick as Cobb and will win more of the one on one match ups. That is something the receivers weren't doing when Jordy got hurt. Montgomery was doing it before he got hurt. It still is too early to count on Adams as a reliable threat. With Jordy out he did next to nothing. Injured or not you gotta step up and if you can't you better step off and let someone try. It is more difficult to get separation when you run a 4.55 forty and the guy covering you runs a 4.44. Rodgers and Nelson make the pass game go and when pressed in man coverage Jordy is the one most often you can count on to get some separation. I believe Montgomery has that ability also. Looking at the tape on Williams, it sure looks like he can handle the workload st RB if he can stay healthy. He looked like a beast. He looked like Lacy but he wasn't getting outrun by 295lb linemen. Mays is just physical specimen and could be really good also. The bottom line is the coaching staff needs to be open minded and let the play on the field determine who wins the starting job and not their preconceived vision of what the starters look like to them. I have felt some good young talent haven't got the playing time over the years because of this preconceived vision.

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MarkLee22's picture

May 29, 2017 at 01:40 pm

Brand new to this site, so don't skewer me lol. I can't help but think, yes, that Monty will be the starter out of the gates, but I think Williams will be the starter by midseason. That's not a knock on Monty at all, I just think Williams will be better as the main carrier with Monty continuing to be a perfect fit for third downs.

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