If there was ever a doubt in your mind that Ty Montgomery wouldn’t be the Packers’ bell-cow running back, that idea can be put to rest. While Montgomery has been on the field more than any other running back in the NFL this year, the diversity in his assignments hasn’t necessarily matched his diversity in skills. Let’s take a look at some positives and negatives in how he was used in week 2.
Positive #1 - Screen Game
Not only is Ty leading the league in RB snaps, he’s also first in YAC. In order to be successful picking up yards after the catch, a receiver needs decent speed and excellent short-area quickness. While not being an overly explosive athlete in terms of measurables, Montgomery knows what moves to use and when (first and last clips will make your mouth water). Another important feature in racking up YAC is vision, and this is where I’ve been most pleasantly surprised by his play so far.
In this clip, Ty catches a screen to the left side and shows off his cutting ability while recognizing that he has help in Lane Taylor to the outside.
A potent screen game helps to relieve pressure on Aaron Rodgers as defensive linemen are forced to read the blocks coming at them rather than getting quick penetration. A major tenet of successful Packers running backs in the modern era has been a competent screen game. McCarthy and company should continue to use Montgomery here, as he’s proven himself more than capable.
Negative #1 - Route variety
Defenses pick up on route combinations pretty quickly if they are run repeatedly, and make adjustments as necessary. Other than the two screen passes and the 1 yard shovel pass that went for a touchdown, Montgomery never got the opportunity to challenge the Falcons’ defense from a route standpoint. Time and time again, Montgomery would motion out of the backfield only to run a flat route towards the sideline, standing there with a defender on top of him. It was unimaginative and predictable.
It only worked once, and that was because the defense had a blown assignment, leaving him wide open. As a natural receiver, I would expect that he would have been given the opportunity to challenge the defense all over the field; especially as he was often covered by a Falcons linebacker, Deion Jones. Here’s another example.
Nope. Flat routes, amounting to nothing. And again:
Montgomery’s routes may have been necessitated in part to the loss of the starting tackles, leading to quicker route combinations for the offense in order to minimize the time the OL had to block. There are still other ways to help your linemen out, however, and those strategies were never really attempted, other than a few designed rollouts and Run-Pass Options.
Positive #2 - Running through tacklers
An initial fear of mine about Montgomery becoming the #1 running back was the number of hits he would absorb throughout the course of a game. Wide receivers get tackled too, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re only catching half a dozen passes every game, the opportunities for punishing body blows just isn’t comparable to a running back carrying the rock 20 times a game. Those fears have also been put to rest.
Does this look like a running back who can’t handle some physical contact?
Montgomery doesn’t end his runs by getting stood up or tackled backwards; he has already learned to lower his pad level and initiate the contact, picking up an extra yard or two as he’s getting hit. It will remain to be seen if he can handle this pounding for a few months straight, but so far so good for Montgomery.
Mixed review - pass blocking & checkdowns
Running backs shouldn’t be asked to take on an edge rusher by themselves. Montgomery wasn’t. This is good! Instead, he was typically tasked with chipping a rusher, helping out the linemen in front of him. After throwing a shoulder into a defender, Montgomery would often release out and hitch near the middle of the field, the dumpoff option for Rodgers. When the defense has an 18 point lead in the fourth quarter and is playing a softer coverage, this works well! As I’ve mentioned, Ty has good short area quickness which he shows when the ball is in his hands. (Bonus - headphones on and sound up for this one, as you can hear Chris Collinsworth moan over Ty’s juke)
More often than not, however, Montgomery’s chip was uninspired, as he was more focused on getting a clean release through the linemen.
This would be OK, except that Atlanta always had the checkdown covered; just like the flat routes above, Montgomery had zero variety in his checkdown routes. Over and over again, he would release off tackle underneath and stand still, only to be covered by a defender who barely had to move. It became predictable, and by standing still after his release, didn’t stress the defense at all.
Overall, the impression was that Montgomery has the tools to become a dynamic playmaker for this offense, and occasionally, he was given the chance to do so. But when two of your top three receivers go down with injury and you ask your swiss-army knife of a running back to run the same routes throughout the game, it really limits the number of chances Montgomery has to make an impact.
If there are other plays, players or schemes you would like to see covered by Bob in his film breakdowns, leave a comment below!