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Packers' Running Backs Sprinting to Improvement

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Packers' Running Backs Sprinting to Improvement

After an offseason full of hype for the new running backs in town, the Packers entered the preseason sporting a young group that was expected to split their carries—and do so efficiently—without the possibility of stagnancy.

With Ty Montgomery leading the charge, supported by Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays—all three of which were drafted back in April—stagnancy was all that existed last week.

They totaled 47 yards on 19 touches as a group, even with quarterbacks Taysom Hill, Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan chiming in as a trio. They did so in a 24-9 win but left a lot of unanswered questions in their first exhibition action.

A lot of those same questions have come full circle with answers ever since.

In their second preseason game in Washington, the Packers were able to get the ground game going, engineered behind both Hill and undrafted tailback Kalif Phillips. Hill got his wheels churning, much like he did last week, and finished with 38 yards on his six attempts. Phillips, meanwhile, was the next-best rusher with 17 yards on five carries.

Phillips running the ball during the Packers' 21-17 win over the Redskins. (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

Ruling out the quarterbacks and Montgomery, who didn't suit up for the game due to a minor injury that kept him out of practice during the week, the Packers fed the ball on the ground to all four of their active running backs. William Stanback, who carried the ball twice against the Eagles, was also one of the 12 inactives for the Packers.

As a team, the Packers rushed for 110 yards on 29 carries, which is more than double their yardage total from a week ago.

Their persistence in pounding the rock likely brought a grin to the face of head coach Mike McCarthy, who stressed earlier in the week the importance of establishing a potent running attack after their abysmal performance against the Eagles.

"I thought with our young guys as a whole, there's a lot of good football," McCarthy said after the game. "We had some breakdowns, some individual situations where it wasn't as clean, but that's why it's the preseason. I think when we get down to evaluating the video, we'll feel we have taken a step.

"That was a goal coming in here tonight."

Unlike 2012 where as many as five different running backs carried the ball through the duration of the regular season, the Packers have more of a healthy carousel in the post-Eddie Lacy era. 

What will make-or-break each individual roster spot that each of the five rookie running backs hope to occupy in September will be their ability to hold up in pass protection. Both Williams and Jones have made strides in doing so, however, Montgomery is still in the process of picking up the concept.

The Packers have done as much as bring in former team running back and pass-protecting specialist Brandon Jackson on an offseason coaching internship in order to help the young group hone in on their craft.

Still, with two weeks to go in the preseason, there's a lot of time for any one of the rookie running backs to make a move in a late-August push for a roster spot. Outside of Montgomery, Williams is more than likely the only true lock for the active roster amongst the running backs come team cutdowns on September 2nd. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

That was sort of rosy. Yes, we were 19 for 47 yards against Philly, but the RBs had 14 carries for 18 yards, a 1.28 yard average. That is the worst average and lowest gross in a preseason game since at least the 2010 season.

Against Washington, the RBs had 20 carries for 56 yards, a 2.8 yard average. I put the blame squarely on the OL. I thought all the RBs ran hard and got what was there, and a little more. Even Phillips, who I condemned as not belonging in the NFL last week, ran hard, showed balance and a nice spin move.

Savage57's picture

"Packers' Running Backs Sprinting to Improvement"

This is a goof, right?

Nick Perry's picture

It's week two of the preseason and the Packers did very little work on the running game before putting on the pads. The lack of work is definitely showing up right now. In the first drive I liked what Williams did even though he had very little room to run. It's true, he does always seem to fall forward for an extra yard. They improved over last week and that was without Montgomery. As long as they get better each week...

EdsLaces's picture

I know it's early, but the fumble and injury to Monty proves at least one of these guys needs to really step up. I'm hoping for Williams, but haven't been able to see the games. Am I rooting for the wrong guy?

Nick Perry's picture

I think if it was regular season Montgomery would play. Now I don't have anything to base that off other than the Packers are normally overly careful with injuries, especially in preseason.

Spock's picture

I didn't get to see the game until 4am this morning (Thanks NFL channel. Well, actually thanks for at least showing the game.) but I thought all the RB's had their moments and all ran hard. The OL after the ones are out is not currently looking very good. Hundley was getting nailed before he could even move; it looked like he felt the pressure of the unblocked guys fairly well but didn't have enough time to move away from the rush. Hill looked to me like he's a bit quick to take off running, but why not (?) if you can run like that! I liked what I saw from the defense. Lowry going down was concerning but he seemed to look mostly okay going to the sideline. I hated, HATED, Pipkin's picking up that WR and smashing him head down into the turf. Not what I want to see from a DB on the Packers. Overall, the 2nd preseason game showed improvement in a lot of areas and it was fun to watch QB1 with the long drive! It appears as if Janis is actually becoming a receiver who's on page with the QB. That would be exciting in his year four, but I'm always more amazed at his ST prowess, his combination of speed and size just can't be overstated. I liked McCaffrey's PR decisions as well as his WR work. He looks like he'll be hard to keep off the 53. That first muff of Trevor Davis is hard to forget. The next game should be fun to watch!!! Go Pack!

baldski's picture

Anytime you give up two all-pro caliber guards, your run game is going to suffer.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

The OL leaves a lot to be desired.
And beyond 1-5, the depth looks awful. Pretty much on par with the Seahawks starters.

Janis & McCaffrey both belong. With Jordy, what do you nickname that trio?

RCPackerFan's picture

I really liked what I saw from Williams and Jones. I wish they would have had more running room, but with what they had i thought they ran well.

IMO, Jones really stood out. He ran hard and has that short area explosiveness. He has really good power for his size. He kind of reminded me of Devonta Freeman on one of his runs. Where it looks like he is bottled up and he breaks a tackle and gains 5 yards on what at most should have been a 1 yard gain.

I'd really like to see what he can do with some open field to run.

late in the game I thought Phillips looked pretty good as well.

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