Dealing with the Packers’ Running Back Situation

Across the duration of the 2017 regular season, the Green Bay Packers, as a team, rushed for 1,724 yards on 386 carries, equaling out to 4.5 yards per carry. While this stat is not awful considering the amount of fluctuation in the backfield throughout the year, the NFL’s rushing leader Todd Gurley from the Rams ran for 1,406 yards… by himself.

Green Bay attempted to address the tailback situation in the draft, by taking three backs. Jamaal Williams was the first runner taken for the Packers, and his season amounted to decent success, contributing 818 total yards but only six touchdowns. Once he took over after a slew of injuries, he looked to be the most polished back in Green Bay’s stable.

In the fifth round, the Packers selected Aaron Jones, who earned 470 total yards and four touchdowns. His breakout game came in his first start, where he torched the Cowboys for 125 yards and a touchdown. Jones seems to be more one-dimensional in nature, as he had a minuscule impact in the passing game.

The third and final back that was drafted last year, Devante Mays, seems to have developed fumble-itis. In only four carries, he had one yard and two fumbles. 50 percent of his touches came by also putting the pigskin on the field𑁋not good odds. While he has potential and looked good when he was at Utah State, he has a long way to go before he can crack the two-deep at tailback.

Couple those somewhat disappointing stats with the uncertain health of Ty Montgomery, and there is a lot that needs to be sorted through for the 2018 version of Green Bay’s backfield.

In Montgomery’s last full season in 2016, he rushed for 457 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games, including six starts. Just by doing the eye test in the backfield, you would almost have to consider this to be the pecking order for 2018:

 

  1. Jamaal Williams
  2. Ty Montgomery
  3. Aaron Jones
  4. Devante Mays

 

However, this order should change, especially due to the impending wide receiver decisions that need to be made this offseason. Questions surrounding Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson coming back have been circling ever since the season ended for the Packers, and these won’t go away until a decision is made.

If the coaching staff was to move Montgomery back to wideout after converting him to running back, there could be an alteration in play types for the offense.

Similar to how the Rams (again with the reference) use their speedster Tavon Austin, we could use Montgomery. Even though his speed doesn’t rival that of Austin, the misdirection plays, end-arounds, jet sweeps, and shovel passes would be able to open up the offense more than it is already. Plus, hopefully, these plays would be more successful than this year when they were run.

This also could act as a stop-gap for a drafted receiver if a receiver were to be let go or traded. It would make the most sense to move on from Cobb if Montgomery was to be moved back outside as well, as Montgomery would open up the offense more from the slot than outside.

The flexibility the team has going into the offseason is endless, and with new coaches and management, the outlook is bright for the cheeseheads. If any of this comes to fruition, only time will tell.  

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