It’s not every day that the third-string running back is considered an “X-factor” in a pivotal NFC North matchup. This Sunday, it’ll be a different story when the Green Bay Packers take the field against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Ty Montgomery is a player we’ve all seen emerge in this Packers offense and then get put on the back-burner. This Sunday, it’ll be time for him to reemerge. Granted, a lot of it will have to do with the person throwing the football, but luckily for the Packers, that’s Aaron Rodgers.
Hobbling on one leg, Rodgers is still better than Matthew Stafford with two legs. Aaron Rodgers will be without Randall Cobb, and this offense has looked markedly different without Jordy Nelson. That doesn’t mean they can’t produce and score points, but the points will also hinge on if the Packers will be without their other two starting receivers, Geronimo Allison (hamstring and concussion) and Davante Adams (calf). Allison’s status seems less likely, but both are questionable heading into the matchup.
With the Packers playing without Cobb, the chances of Adams and Allison being out or even limited will open the door for plenty of other playmakers. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will see plenty of touches out of the backfield. Jimmy Graham has solidified himself in this offense, but the “X-factor” will be running back Ty Montgomery. Let’s dive into a couple of plays from this season and find out what to expect from Montgomery and how he can help the Packers defeat the Lions.
Good Vision With Better Cutting Ability
Some coaches consider Montgomery the best all-around athlete on the Packers’ offense. Outside of Cobb, you can’t really argue against it. He’s a former wide receiver and has transformed his skillset into a quality option at the running back position.
As you can see from the run above, Montgomery shows patience and lets his blocks develop in front of him. In the process, his vision leads him to the hole that’s created by the center. The center (#63 Corey Linsley) pulls and does a nice job sealing the linebacker, and this allows Montgomery to get free and into the open field. In the open field, Montgomery freezes the safety (#34 Andrew Sendejo) with a great cut. These are the types of runs that can happen against the Lions because of the aggressiveness from linebacker Jarrad Davis and his tendency to over-pursue to the football.
In his three games against the Lions, Montgomery has 14 carries for 76 yards, along with four receptions for 35 yards. Those aren’t numbers that move the needle but remember, Montgomery has shared the backfield for most of his career. But this week, it’s not even about what he provides in the running game. It’s about what he provides as a wide receiver. With game-time decisions on Adams and Allison, and Cobb already listed as out, let’s take a look at how Montgomery will truly be utilized and become the X-factor.
The Wheel Route Remains Undefeated
There will be plenty of times that Aaron Rodgers will set up in an empty-formation and then motion Ty Montgomery to the backfield. More often than not, that gives the Packers ’11’ personnel, normally aligned in trips right or trips left.
By running their offense like this, it gives Rodgers plenty of options. One of the biggest things that I notice when watching the Packers’ offense is they have no issues spreading defenses out, which puts Rodgers in the position to extend plays beyond the pocket or tuck the ball and run with it. With this formation, he has three receivers and a tight end to find downfield, but he also has the option to check down to a running back. In this case, he’ll find Montgomery down the field.
On the diagram above, you can see that the Packers are in ’11’ personnel (one running back and one tight end). To the right of Rodgers, you have trips right and to the left of Rodgers is Ty Montgomery. At the top of the screen, you’ll get a curl route and a post route. Going up the seam is their tight end, Jimmy Graham. On the bottom of the screen, they have Davante Adams run a quick curl and Ty Montgomery running a wheel route out of the backfield.
This was a great call because the Bills have a single-high safety look, but also their cornerback (#27 Tre’Davious White) and linebacker (#58 Matt Milano) have a clear miscue in coverage. Fortunately for the Bills, their safety (#21 Jordan Poyer) is able to get over in time for the tackle.
It’s 43-yard gains like these that can make Montgomery such a problem for defenses. For the Lions, they struggled to cover Ezekiel Elliot out of the backfield last week. Elliot recorded four receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Throughout this Week 5 matchup against the Lions, the Packers are going to utilize Montgomery all over the field. He has more experience than their three rookie receivers (Equanimeous St. Brown, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and J’Mon Moore) and provides this offense with a different dynamic with his ability to run routes out of the backfield.
Finding Montgomery Underneath
If you’re a Lions fan, you should brace yourself for third down and Ty Montgomery being lined up in the backfield. With Cobb out, there’s a chance we see him aligned in the slot and running plenty of routes underneath coverages. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t care about finding him in tight coverage, but he does care about giving Montgomery the chance to create after the catch.
Once again, you’ll see the Packers in ’11’ personnel (one running back and one tight end). To the left of Aaron Rodgers, they have trips left, and Jimmy Graham (tight end #80) is aligned at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the screen, Geronimo Allison (wide receiver #81) runs a post route. Underneath his post route, you have Davante Adams (wide receiver #17) running a curl.
The most important thing about this play is how Randall Cobb (#18) runs shallow across the middle, but he essentially sets this up as a “pick play” on the linebacker. This opens the door for Ty Montgomery to sneak out of the backfield and run underneath the coverage and take a pass from Aaron Rodgers.
It would be shocking if the Packers didn’t run this play on third down. They did it against the Redskins on third down, and these are the types of plays that build momentum and not just keep drives alive. Montgomery has the ability to get out into space and make defenders pay with his vision and shiftiness.
More than likely, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will handle the running back duties during this game. They’re known as the one-two punch out of the backfield with Jones leading the way. However, Montgomery will be a situational runner and more than likely the third down running back. Again, there’s a chance that Montgomery finds himself playing out of the slot and running underneath coverages and tallying up yards after the catch.
Through 33 career games, Montgomery has 93 receptions for 792 yards and three touchdowns. With the Lions having a limited pass rush and the inability to stop the run, I’d fully expect all three running backs of the Green Bay Packers to be effective. When it’s all said and done, Ty Montgomery is going to be the X-factor that this offense needs in a heated rivalry.