He looked like he was about to be taken down for a loss. Dancing around, looking for an opening within 10 yards of your own end zone never seems like a good idea, but Ty Montgomery didn’t care. After a few moments of Le’Veon Bell-esque hesitation behind the line of scrimmage, a seam opened up and Montgomery darted through the hole. Three missed tackles later and he was sprinting down the sidelines for what ended up being a 61-yard run that got his team into Bears territory. It looked like the Packers had a new weapon on offense.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Montgomery’s own worst enemy was himself. To this point in his career he has only played in 29 of a total of 48 games. I’ve said it for years that being able to stay healthy is a skill and it’s something that Montgomery has struggled with his whole career. Then the dual emergence of Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones last year put thoughts of Montgomery as a starter onto the backburner. Now there are even writers suggesting that he should be brought back as a wide receiver this year. Mike McCarthy has put those ideas to bed, and with Aaron Jones two-game suspension, Montgomery actually has an opportunity to reclaim his starting spot and make a name for himself.
Now what makes Montgomery such a special running back? Well, it’s that he isn’t a running back. Or that he wasn’t in college. He’s a converted wide receiver as I’m sure you all know, and this makes him special. His versatility is what makes him so dangerous, but especially because of the way modern sports are built.
An apparent trend in both the NFL and the NBA is the move towards more position-less players. Players that are freak athletes, not too big, not too small, can cover a lot of ground, and are still big enough to take a hit. In the NBA, everyone is craving long and athletic wings than can guard any position and also play any position. Specialization is a dying art, and it all boils down to mismatches. If you just have a running back who’s best attribute is running straight down the middle, then it’s easy to prepare for that. Stuff the box with big defensive line-men and hardnosed linebackers and bring up the safeties. However, versatile players cause opposing defenses headaches.
Imagine a situation where the Packers line up with Adams, Cobb, Lewis, Graham, and Montgomery in a two tight end, two wide receiver, one running back set. That group is versatile enough to switch into a five-man wide receiver formation without substituting a single person. No defense is going to want to guard a team capable of doing that, let alone one with the talent of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Offenses in the NFL are moving more and more towards the no-huddle and Montgomery at running back completely opens up the playbook on every snap without them needing to change personnel.
In a league that pushes the boundary of player flexibilities Montgomery is an asset this team can’t afford to waste. If he’s used correctly, he can do a lot to help this team maximize its already impressive offensive assets. It’s all about creating mismatches in today’s league, and Montgomery might be the best the Packers have at doing that.