Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor in the 1960s. Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens in the mid-1990s. Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport in 2003. Hell, even Eddie Lacy and James Starks in 2013.
The Green Bay Packers have had their fair share of impressive running back tandems throughout the franchise’s storied history, and the team’s head coach, Mike McCarthy, seems to think he could have another one next season in Eddie Lacy and Ty Montgomery.
Of course, there’s that little bit of business to take care of: Lacy will be an unrestricted free agent on March 9th. If it were up to McCarthy, though, Lacy would probably already be under contract for 2017. Multiple times during his media availability during the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, McCarthy said he would “love to have Eddie back,” underscoring clearly his desire to get the big back in Green Bay once again this fall.
There are good reasons for feeling that way, of course; although Lacy landed on injured reserve after the Packers’ fifth game of the season, he appears on track to be ready for a full offseason workload. “Eddie’s working through his rehab, he’s working down at the University of Alabama,” said McCarthy, adding “I had a chance to visit with him about a week or so back.” Furthermore, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported on Wednesday that sources expect Lacy to be ready to go by the time OTAs roll around in May.
All of that, plus the Packers’ familiarity with Lacy, make it a good likelihood that he may return to the Packers in 2017. If he does, McCarthy likes what both he and Montgomery could provide for the offense. When asked his interest level in seeing those two together, his response was simple: “very high.” McCarthy expanded on that thought, however:
I think it’s important to recognize you always want some diversity between the running styles of your running backs, especially when they can both play all three downs. That’s the most important component that I look for in running backs; they’re all different, it’s our job as coaches to take advantage of their skill set. But the fact that those guys can play all three downs and give you a different style of runner is a huge benefit to our offense.
To be sure, both players are capable of playing all three downs when they are at full strength. Lacy had a great 2014 as a receiver, catching 42 passes for just over 10 yards per carry, while Montgomery’s skills are easy to see after his transition from wide receiver. The greatest area of improvement for Montgomery is in pass-blocking, so that will likely be a focus of his during the offseason.
However, don’t expect McCarthy to promise any specific role to either back if Lacy does indeed return. He doesn’t go into a season thinking that he will have either a workhorse or a timeshare, instead saying that it’s “up to the players” to define their roles. “You create opportunities and based on how much one player plays over the next, that’s up to those guys,” he said on Wednesday.
It’s clear, however, that McCarthy wants to give Lacy and Montgomery the opportunity to compete against each other for playing time and to help each other improve. In the next week or two, we will all find out together whether McCarthy gets his wish.