The Green Bay Packers are a team heavily reliant on their young players, so much so that until this offseason the idea of the team bringing in an outside free agent was borderline impossible.
Though the team was more open to outside additions this particular offseason, the players key to elevating Green Bay to another level are their many youthful contributors.
With this in mind, every week during the 2017 season we’ll be taking a look at a different young player on the team and bringing to light their importance for the upcoming week’s game.
In Week 4, we deep dive on WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery.
Ty Montgomery wasn’t even supposed to be a running back.
In college at Stanford, he played as a receiver. When he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2015, it was as a receiver. Had it not been for injury-fueled desperation, he probably would still be a receiver right now.
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Deteriorated depth forced him into action in the backfield though, and since the move there he’s been a clear asset for Green Bay back there.
It really has accentuated his strengths as a player. Even before he was drafted, Pro Football Focus was able to figure out that while he has good physical characteristics he falls short in key areas of receiving ability such as his catching, route running, and instincts.
His play in the first year-plus of his career bore out as much, with numerous untimely drops and unsatisfactory routes run that should’ve been child’s play for a wideout.
Put those talents at running back, and he all of a sudden becomes a much stronger asset. What were poor catching skills for the average wide receiver place him in the upper echelon for running backs. Route running goes from a necessity to a bonus, with most of the routes exhibited from Montgomery now being of the screen or dumpoff variety.
The biggest asset for Montgomery has been his elusiveness in the backfield. In 2016, no other runner came close to him in this area.
In 106 attempts last year, he forced 24 missed tackles; in case you can’t tell, that’s an insane percentage.
With the addition of some bulk in the offseason for a full year at his position, and the expected continuance of his elusive (and already powerful) ways, a strong 2017 running game for Green Bay appeared to be on the horizon.
That hasn’t exactly happened quite yet, however.
While Montgomery is the undisputed leader in running back snap count for Green Bay through three weeks (205 snaps; next closest is Jamaal Williams at just 20), he hasn’t really helped to forge a consistent ground attack for his team.
The Packers are tied for #27 in total rushing yards, are #23 in yards per attempt through three games, are #29 in rushing yards per game, and have the second-lowest yardage total for longest running play (just 13 yards).
This week is a great time to change things on that front.
The Chicago Bears served as Montgomery’s coming-out party last season. In the first meeting, Montgomery put up 60 rushing yards on only 9 carries (including a 30-yard rush). In the second, he went off for 162 yards and 2 TDs on just 16 carries (including a 61-yard breakaway rush).
In all, those two Chicago contests gave Montgomery 222 of his 457 total rushing yards (48.6% of his season total), and two of his three rushing scores.
His receiving ability also got a shine, with him catching 12 passes (27%) for 67 yards (19%) across the two contests.
This could be a breakout for him yet again.
Chicago is coming off a necessarily ugly win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In basic metrics, their defense has been surprisingly good against the run through three weeks (#8 in rush defense yardage; #9 in defensive rush yards per attempt), but advanced statistics show a decidedly average group (#15 in Run Defense DVOA).
Aaron Rodgers has been throwing the ball at an unsustainable rate to start the season; he’s going to need help from his run game at some point, and the sooner it happens the better it will be for the team.
If Montgomery is going to truly be the lead back that his snap count numbers would appear to deem him as, he’s going to have to help provide more balance for his team’s offense than we’ve seen through the first few weeks of 2017.
Facing a team in Chicago which helped put him on the map as a running back in the first place, seeing him come away with another strong effort should not only be desired, but expected of the young runner.
If he can’t show up in the ground game this week, this Green Bay team will officially have yet another glaring issue they must manage to overcome to survive this season with meaningful results.