Who should start at running back for the Green Bay Packers?
Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are all competing for the starting running back position this season. With the preseason less than two weeks away, the Packers have about six weeks to assess the position and determine who they’re going to put behind Aaron Rodgers come Week 1.
Montgomery, Jones, and Williams all shared the starting job during last season for various amounts of time. Montgomery was penciled in as the starter for the opener against the Seahawks, while Jones and Williams were eventually mixed into the lineup.
All three running backs have different skill sets, so which one should get the first carry? Jones is suspended for the first two games, but can return in Week 3.
It’s easy to forget that Montgomery was drafted as a wide receiver out of Stanford. He never blossomed into a downfield threat and instead became an effective short-yardage receiver that the Packers mixed in on third downs. After countless injuries at the running back spot, Mike McCarthy got Montgomery into the game as a running back and he quickly impressed.
Montgomery has an unusual knack for seeing the holes and shooting through them with a quick burst. While he doesn’t have tremendous top end speed, Montgomery packs a serious punch as a runner. He’s a force at the point of contact and can drive his legs forward for an extra few inches so critical in short yardage situations.
Given his experience at receiver, the Packers can also empty the backfield and use Montgomery as an extra receiver on passing downs. Montgomery is among the most talented pass catchers among running backs in the NFL, and his ability to find a hole on an intermediate route makes him a reliable check down target for Aaron Rodgers.
Montgomery is also one of the league’s best pass-protecting backs. At 216 pounds, Montgomery is able to engage blitzing linebackers and keep them away from Rodgers and eventually leak into the flat as a receiver. Finding running backs who are nifty runners, experienced receivers, and excellent blockers is rare in the NFL, but Montgomery simply cannot stay healthy enough to shoulder a starter’s role.
Montgomery has suffered from ankle, wrist, and rib injuries over his first three seasons in Green Bay. He has been placed on injured reserve twice, and given the position he plays, his long-term outlook doesn’t look too promising. Montgomery is still an extremely talented player who the Packers should look to mix in as much as possible this coming season.
More from Lombardi Ave
- Packers: Picks in NFL.com mock draft would be a home run
- Packers salary cap update following second week of free agency
- Packers’ cornerback depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ edge rusher depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ tackle depth chart after second week of free agency
Williams took a second to get going this past season, but after the injury to Aaron Jones in Week 10, he became the bell cow for Brett Hundley. Like Montgomery, Williams is not going to blow you away with speed in the open field, instead he will look to run you over. Strangely, the Packers made him and his 4.53 40-yard dash time their main returner on kickoffs this past season, and quickly understood that he doesn’t have the afterburners to turn on on the boundary.
Williams averaged 3.6 yards per carry and scored four times last season. He doesn’t seem to have the highest ceiling in the world, but at a minimum, Williams appears to have potential as a bulky, bigger running back who can be given the ball behind a powerful lead blocker like Aaron Ripkowski. The Packers would love to see Williams get his opportunities, but the starter should be Aaron Jones once he’s available in Week 3.
Jones is the only back on the roster with true star potential. At only 5-foot-10, Jones can duck under his offensive linemen on screens and get into the open field in a hurry. He is the quickest running back on the team and after a breakout performance against the Cowboys, earned the trust of his head coach and the starting job until his injury in Week 10.
Jones has tremendous wiggle and twitch in the hole. He provides a trait that the Packers offense simply hasn’t had in years, which is consistent open field moves and elusiveness. Starting Jones could also lead to the best combination of running backs in the rotation. The Packers would ideally like to use Williams primarily in short-yardage situations, with Montgomery being prioritized on passing downs as a pass-protector and receiver.
Jones is the most talented runner that the Packers have, and should be trusted with providing some balance for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have depth at the position and could go a number of different directions, but right now Jones is the answer.