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The Packers' Running back Carousel is far from Complete

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The Packers' Running back Carousel is far from Complete

For most teams, three running backs occupying the roster may be enough to formulate some kind of sufficient ground game. 

For the Packers, it may not be enough.

After going from wide receiver to running back mid-season in 2016, Ty Montgomery has showcased his athletic ability and hidden running back prowess that created his own personal highlight reel in his 77 total carries last season. A number that led the team, however, Eddie Lacy was second with 71 and he played 226 fewer offensive snaps than Montgomery. 

The only question encircling Montgomery is whether or not he can be the team's three-down back and be dependable on each carry. He fumbled twice last season, and one of those fumbles was recovered by the opposing team, so that factor remains in question. 

Out of shotgun, a formation the Packers run over 53 percent of their offense in, Montgomery ran the ball 50 times for 333 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per touch. It's also a formation where his three total touchdowns in 2016 came out of. Montgomery may have offered some big plays out of the backfield down the stretch of the season, specifically in Chicago where dropped 162 rushing yards against the Bears, but his consistency leaves much to be desired. As expected from someone who made the transition to a new position through the course of the season. 

With a full off-season under his belt and a firm grasping of the playbook, who knows what Montgomery can be capable of in Green Bay next season. For now, the Packers running back situation remains in a state of limbo, and the group behind Montgomery doesn't get prettier.

Christine Michael, who was just re-signed to the team on Wednesday, hop-scotched between Dallas and Seattle before landing in Green Bay in mid-November. He, too, provided an explosive presence out of shotgun where he averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season with a sample size of 75 attempts - 31 of those attempts, however, came with the Packers. The other 44 with the Seahawks.

Cheap depth at the running back position for a pass-heavy team is never frowned upon, and that's precisely what Michael provides. There was never any doubting Michael's abilities, even after the Knile Davis-like start to his Packers career. The details of Michael's newly-inked deal with the team has yet to be released.

Another interesting player that rounds out the tailback depth chart for the Packers is Don Jackson, who missed the final half of the season due to being placed on injured reserve.

Originally a practice squad member, the Packers promoted him prior to their week seven Thursday Night Football affair with the visiting Bears, in which Jackson carried the ball just twice. After injuring his hand in the same game, he trudged through his injury for the next two weeks before the Packers chose to clear up a roster spot and move Jackson to injured reserve. It was the last that was seen of Jackson for the remainder of the season. 

Despite his shortcomings and small sample size, the Packers chose to exercise his exclusive rights tender earlier this month, keeping him in Green Bay for the 2017 season. 

Had it not been for the aforementioned move, Jackson would likely be out of reach of the team, but there's clearly some kind of mutual interest between both sides that's potent enough to keep Jackson on the 53-man roster - at least for now. 

As previously stated, there isn't much of a sampling size with Jackson; in fact, just 10 carries worth. Undrafted out of Nevada, Jackson also bounced around with the Packers, going from being released by the team to their practice squad and ultimately to racking up 32 total yards last season. In the best case scenario, the Packers won't need to see much out of Jackson in 2017.

With the situation at running back looking less-than-stellar for the Packers, ESPN Draft Expert Mel Kiper mocked Florida State University running back Dalvin Cook to Green Bay in his latest mock draft.

"Cook's stock is dropping a little bit. He didn't test amazingly at the combine, a couple of shoulder injuries at FSU have worried teams and not many teams in the first round need running backs. But falling to Green Bay here would be considered a great value pick. Green Bay needs a back and will take one at some point -- converted receiver Ty Montgomery is really all it has now -- and Cook (5-10, 210) is one of the best home run hitters out there. Cook gives Aaron Rodgers and the offense some help in the passing game, too."

Cook isn't alone either. The Packers have also had Stanford's Christian McCaffrey mocked to them (several times) in a multitude of mock drafts. Essentially, they'd be signing up for Montgomery's clone. While an offense with Martellus Bennett, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and McCaffrey does sound appealing, you would also look for your best value pick at 29th overall, and McCaffrey likely won't fit that bill for the Packers, nor will he fit general manager Ted Thompson's MO.

The Packers may likely add another running back to their carousel via the draft, but who that may be and the round they aim for said running back in is unforeseen. 


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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't doubt Michael's physical abilities. I doubt his vision, and that can't be taught, though perhaps reps can improve it. Not clear if he can learn the playbook, either.

I don't think exercising the ERFA rights shows much. A player has to suck bad to not get that. IDK anything about Don Jackson other than TT preferred Alonzo Harris to Crockett, preferred Brandon Ross (signed ross 7-13 and released Jackson 7-25, then released Ross on 8-3) released Brandon Burks to sign Pressley off waivers on 9-5, signed Jackson to the PS on 9-5, dumped Pressley on 9-14, traded for Knile Davis on 10-18 and then promoted jackson - probably for just the next game while Davis got ready - but Jackson got hurt. Not so clear to me but it doesn't look like GB thinks all that highly of Jackson.

It would be criminal if TT goes into this season with Monty, Michael and Jackson (with Rip and/or Kerridge) as the RBs.

Packer_Pete's picture

I'm sure there will be another RB signed or drafted...

I also don't doubt Michael's abilities, but with how many years he has been in the NFL already and not having shown that he has vision to read plays and holes at all, I don't think he is any kind of answer. Camp body at best, IMHO, and maybe a short term solution for a game or 2. Not ever anything more.

Nick Perry's picture

I would think Thompson learned his lesson after last season. He counted on Lacy to be a professional in 2016, be responsible about his weight and be closer to the Lacy of 2013 & 14 but that didn't happen. He lost weight by OTA's, ballooned back up by TC, and Eddie just never got it back to where he needed to be.
Starks falling off the edge in a blink was something I'm sure he didn't count on either. The difference between James Starks of 2015 and 2016 was amazing. He looked and played like he was closer to 40 opposed to 30.

I can't imagine ANY scenario where Thompson goes into the regular season with just Monty, Michael, Jackson, and Rip. If that were to happen then Thompson has clearly LOST his mind but I doubt that's the case. Rip is not the thunder to Montgomery's lightning. Michael is a guy to give Monty a rest. "Thunder is somewhere in the 5th or 6th round.

Edit...If Thompson draft or sign an UDFA I hope it's from one of the "Bigger Conferences". I know Ted loves to find those players from small schools but lets just get a guy who compliments Montgomery...

RCPackerFan's picture

'I would think Thompson learned his lesson after last season.'

I certainly hope he has learned his lesson. First can't go into the season with 2 true RB's on your roster.
I hope he decides to actually draft some talent there too. He hasn't drafted a true RB since 2013 when he took Lacy and Franklin.

I would like to see him reinvest into the position again.

Ryan Graham's picture

How many backs do you anticipate on the 53 man roster? Starter is Ty, Michael will back him up. If Ted drafts a big back somewhere they have Rip behind him as his insurance policy. And then he will have Don Jackson in his back pocket, whom they clearly have confidence in as a last resort. Chances are he probably won't make the final cuts because a 53 man can't afford 5 backs in a West coast offense. Let's also consider the depth of this class, quality will be available I rounds 4 and 5, where there are 3 picks.

Ted's hand was forced when he drafted Franklin and Lacy. Starks Kuhn and Hall were the only backs on roster, more full backs than half backs. This is not even close to that serious.

RCPackerFan's picture

I am thinking they will keep 3-5 RB's. Ripkowski included in that.
Michael is no guarantee to make the final roster.

I'd rather them have some tough decisions to make on who to cut, vs preparing to rely on guys that may not be very good. We can't go into another season having 2 RB's on the roster.
And we simply need more talent there.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Don Jackson: "whom they clearly have confidence in as a last resort." There is little to no evidence of this. I wrote above about all of the backs that TT thought were better. They are legion. Jackson got promoted because he was the only back who knew the playbook.

I think TT will add a RB through the draft. Monty and Rip are the only locks. I was counting Kerridge more as an STs guy. I do agree with Ryan that the RB should not be a first round draft pick.

OrganLeroy's picture

There are a lot of RB's that could be had in the 4th or 5th round that are already better than Michael. There's no guarantee he doesn't get beat out by a rookie. Ted should draft 2 RB's a big guy (J.Conner-6th rnd) and a scat back like Aaron Jones (5th rnd) who's also a great reciever. Jackson's jag, and Michael is simply insurance at this point.

Tundraboy's picture

"If Thompson draft or sign an UDFA I hope it's from one of the "Bigger Conferences". I know Ted loves to find those players from small schools but lets just get a guy who compliments Montgomery..."

Yes please!!! This is not the year for taking a chance on a project. All in for Arod.

Nick Perry's picture

The Packers have just 8 picks this year so I agree with you TB, not the year for taking chances or projects. I like the Michael signing and thought Ted would bring him back. Having Michael signed makes RB less of a priority in the draft pecking order. It's still a need, just a smaller one now.

Donster's picture

TT will either draft a back in the mid to late rounds, or pick one up after the draft from the UDFA pile.

Three and Out's picture

With Ty as the #1 the Packers went on a tear. 2 fumbles through how many, 7(?) games at a position in which he walked into midseason is absolutely nothing to be worried about. The offense is going to be quite good, I really don't understand this sky is falling mentality when it comes to the offense...nearly every team in the league would die to have an offense that consists of Rodgers, Nelson, Adams, Bennett, Allison, Cobb, Rodgers and Montgomery. Yet somehow most Packers fans are worried about it. The offense is fine. The defense is what we all should be concerned about.

Ryan Graham's picture

I agree with TaO up there. This offense is 100% centralized around Rodgers, which is why it is so succesful. Ty played well from the backfield, and he has nowhere to go but up. I'm not going to say that the backfield is set for 2017, I anticipate a draft pick at least. That said, this scenario does not require a first round pick by any means. If Ted and friends do go first round RB they will be passing up on serious talent and serious need on the other side of the ball.

The focus being on the offensive side of the ball in Free Agency tells me the draft will speak on the contrary.

RCPackerFan's picture

I would not be surprised if they drafted 2 RB's. One earlier (rounds 1-3) and another later (Rounds 4-7).

I like Don Jackson. I think he brings some explosiveness and I think he could compete. But honestly, I don't want to rely on him.
Bringing Michael back I think is good. Give him an offseason in the system to learn more and see where he is after the preseason. Again with him though I don't want to have to rely on him.

Almost every year there are RB's that are taken in the mid rounds that become very productive players in the NFL. I have posted this before but these RB's were all taken in the mid rounds. And there were more, I just selected some of the top RB's taken.
2016- 5th round Jordan Howard.
2015- 5th round Jay Ajayi
2014- 4th round Devonta Freeman, James White
2013- 6th round Latavius Murray
2012- 4th round Lamar Miller, 6th round Alfred Morris

I really like Montgomery and Ripkowski. But they still need to add more talent to the position.

OrganLeroy's picture

While I agree with most of your assessment we simply don't need to draft a RB before the 4th round, the talent is too deep when we need to address the talent on the defense as a whole where the talent at CB,OLB, & S are also deep. The only guy I'd be in favor of in the 3rd would be Mixon, and it's unclear if Ted has him on or off his board based on his past incident.

croatpackfan's picture

I will post this again - Joe Mixon, all around RB (6-foot-1, 226-pounds) from Oklahoma in 3rd round!

Nick Perry's picture

I doubt TT will touch Mixon, even as an UDFA which he won't be. That tape of him punching a woman is pretty disturbing. There was no hesitation or anything, just bamn and she was down. He's a hell of a football player, just not much of a man.

croatpackfan's picture

I know, but he is young and maybe he deserves second chance... Remember Colt? He did not punch woman, but has lot of baggage with him. I does not pan out... Maybe this time will be...
Btw, I, also, thinks that punching weaker person than yourself is really, really low...

croatpackfan's picture

Well I said that is how I see the situation. I know I can be very wrong... But, at least I think out of box, the only way you might be able to catch what TT will do ;-)...

I'm on second chance opportunity with young fellows. When you are at age of 25 - 30, than it is something different. Again, you can't teach old dog new tricks, but young dog, you may correct his behaviour...

mrtundra's picture

I want an RB who picks up on the playbook and learns his assignments for each play. Michael had a little trouble with this last season and at least once incurred the wrath of AR when he ran the wrong way. I see TT drafting an RB somewhere in the middle rounds and maybe grabbing an UDFA.

daveh's picture

Will AR ever win another Super Bowl? No, because TT is surrounding his Champagne QB with cheap bottom shelve whiskey players.Just my opinion.GO PACK...

Spock's picture

I just don't see running back as a big need.
Sure a mid round RB will probably be taken, but this season I expect the offense will be TE driven. With AR's lights out passing all we need is the threat of Ty out of the backfield, and we know Rip can tote the rock as well (please lighten up on his single fumble in one playoff game). Not sure why RCPfan seems so sure we need to draft TWO???? Why? A second RB draft pick is one LESS defensive pick. Just my (probably useless) opinion. :)

OrganLeroy's picture

You're right Mr. Spock, this season will be more TE driven which is what McCarthy has always wanted but Ted has failed to supply him with since Finley's injury. Which also highlights the fact that we need to take advantage more so than RB this draft, of a very sick TE talent pool. Not to do so with a higher pick would be CRIMINAL!

stockholder's picture

Ok, First House, Now Michael. Can we just start contract talks with Watt. The whining will stop. The guessing is over. Lambeau is the magical Kingdom.

Ferrari Driver's picture

In spite of Christine Michael's physical skills, he makes bonehead mistakes routinely, including lining up incorrectly on plays and other pre-snap errors which should not occur.

Why? having an NFL Wonderlic score of 11 makes him far from a quick study.

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