Why Ty Montgomery should get 20-plus carries per game

After his 162-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 15, it's time the Packers give the WR-turned-RB the ball.

| 5 months ago
Ty Montgomery

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Why Ty Montgomery should get 20-plus carries per game

It’s time the Green Bay Packers gave Ty Montgomery the workload his play has been crying out for all season.

Against Chicago this week, Montgomery received a season-high 16 carries—his first game approaching a full-time backfield workload—and he responded by rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, breaking seven tackles along the way.

It was the first week that Montgomery has received more than 10 carries, but in the five games that he has at least five rushes, he has averaged 7.1 yards per carry, 6.2 of which have come after contact. He has broken 16 tackles in 50 carries across those games.

Ty Montgomery may have been seen as a receiver prospect coming out of Stanford, but the truth is, he was always a natural running back.

At 6-feet in height and around 220 pounds, Montgomery is built like a running back, not a receiver, and his role at Stanford always felt a little like they just didn’t quite know what to do with him. Here’s a look at what I wrote about Montgomery as a prospect coming out:

Ty Montgomery scouting report

The Packers selected Montgomery as a receiver in the third round of the 2015 draft, and he spent the first period of his NFL career at the position before injuries forced the team to move him into the backfield in an emergency capacity. From that point on, he has looked more at home as a running back than he ever did playing wideout.

The signs were there at Stanford. Though they rarely lined him up as a conventional tailback, they did run plays with him as the primary ball-carrier behind effectively conventional pro-style run concepts, and he was successful doing so.

Here Montgomery takes the direct snap, but then just runs a simple counter play to the left side of the line and shows good burst and strength to lower his shoulder and take the yardage that was there.

Ty Montgomery vs Stanford

That’s not a spectacular play or anything, but it’s solid indication of basic running back tools that were there to see during his collegiate days.

The Chicago defense was certainly a big contributor to Montgomery’s success in Week 15, as was some impressive blocking from the Packers. Despite only 16 carries, though, he ended up leading the league in rushing yards and yards after contact; he also had the longest run of the week, and broke seven tackles, tied for the most on the ground by any player.

Montgomery showed good burst and the ability to cut and make people miss, as well as the ability to drag defenders for additional yardage. Take this play that combines all of those elements:

Ty Montgomery vs Bears

Montgomery gets through the line with a nice cut and already has a good run on his hands, but he heads to daylight well, and then picks up an extra 15 yards through the attempted tackles by Bears defenders, all the while protecting the ball with two hands to ensure he doesn’t fumble.

It’s too soon to anoint Montgomery as an elite running back at the NFL level—he has just 55 total carries on the season, or less than 20 percent of the rushing workload of Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas—but the evidence is mounting that the Packers have discovered a real talent in the backfield, effectively by accident. The apprenticeship he had at receiver in his first season in the league only makes him a more dangerous weapon when he is moved into the backfield, because this is now a player with legitimate position flexibility, posing a real challenge for defenses to match up with from a personnel standpoint.

Despite all of these plays, there still hasn’t been a game in which Montgomery has topped 20 touches of the ball from scrimmage this season, and it’s time for that to change. That 20-touch figure should be the baseline target for a player that has provided a significant spark to an offense that had become stale and predictable. It took them awhile, but the Packers have realized Ty Montgomery is a natural running back—now it’s time for them to hand him the workload he deserves, too.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Joe Doe

    I was thinking the same thing while watching the game yesterday. How does someone average over 10 yards a carry but get such a limited number of touches? Even more concerning is the thought of McCarthy limiting his playing time once Starks is back, which he already has done this season.

    • Nelson Cobb

      Starks was healthy the previous couple weeks, and only played 7 snaps in each game, while Michael got 11 and 17 and Ty got 29 and 30. I think it’s safe to say Mike McCarthy has realized the error in his ways when it comes to continually playing Starks, and as long as Ty and Michael stay healthy, and Michael doesn’t make a bunch of costly mistakes, we won’t see much of James Starks going forward. Rest of this season and into the future, as he’ll likely be cut after the season to give his cap number to Eddie Lacy.

      • Joe Doe

        What’s concerning is how long that took. Considering how successful he was against Chicago the first game its amazing the Montgomery has only played 61 snaps at RB on the year. 61! Now I know there was that blip with the sickle cell but after that game a coach that can make quality adjustments without weeks of lag would’ve had him lining up for 25-30 snaps at RB a game.

        My concern with the Packers is not week to week, which considering they control their own destiny is alright. I’m still shocked that they are struggling to make the playoffs in a week division and a favorable schedule.

        Had Montgomery been given the reps he deserved since his first performance against Chicago, maybe sneaking into playoffs wouldn’t be a concern. With how weak the conference is as a whole they should have a playoff bye.

        • Brian Dugan

          You can’t just count the carries, he’s also had 37 receptions. Many Packers fans have been yelling for TyMont since before he got hurt last year, but he’s still only a 2nd year converted WR that has never had 20-25 touches/game, even going back to college.

          Also, a point of contention re: “a favorable schedule” – up until the last few weeks, the Packers had one of the tougher schedules in football by DVOA. They were also destroyed by injuries in that horrible 4 game losing streak stretch.

          • Joe Doe

            Oh… I didn’t know he was on a “pitch count” except for when they play Chicago. I’m sure they’re trying to save him for the playoffs, which they aren’t currently in. 37 catches in 12 games? Wow… that’s almost three a game! McCarthy has utilized arguably his best playmaker twice effectively this year? Great… give him a 10 year extension. And thanks for informing me that strength of schedule is computed only on their harder opponents and takes out the easier ones if they are in the last third of the season.

          • Brian Dugan

            1) He probably was on a pitch count post-sickle cell setback, in addition to other injuries this year. Some of the assistant coaches have even used the phrase “pitch count” in the immediate games after the sickle cell setback (in answering beat reporters’ questions regarding Ty’s snap count). Ty was also on IR for most of his rookie season. He’s very talented, but so far durability isn’t one of those talents.

            2) I’m not at all defending MM for not utilizing Ty more. Packers fans, including myslef, have been wanting Ty more involved since he started breaking out before his ankle injury last year.

            3) The Packers have still had one of the harder schedules in the NFL, clearly not “favorable.” I emphasized this by stating that it was actually a top 5 difficult schedule by DVOA up until the last few weeks. That, combined with their mid-season injury onslaught at RB, LB, and CB explains why the Packers are 8-6 compared to 10-4 as many would expect at this point. They still control their playoff destiny which is a luxury this time of year.

            So calm down Angry Internet Guy. I didn’t come at you with an irrational rant. Respectful discourse is a much more productive way to talk about sports (or anything).

  • JimmyCrackCorn

    I imagine it’s more about durability than anything. He came up limping a couple times during the game, he lost most of a season last year due to injury, he’s missed a game to Sickle cell trait this year. Trying to build up his workload and keep him fresh is ok with me, especially if Michael can run effectively.

    • Brian Dugan

      These are all really good points. Picking up Michael may end up being a huge move for the Packers down the stretch. It allows them to keep Montgomery fresh and available for all 3rd down/2-minute drill snaps, as well as it keeps James Starks off the field.

      I respect James Starks’ Packer career, especially that 2010 playoff run, but he has been truly awful this year.

  • Jephree Dagenais

    One of the most exciting things to come out of this is his use in Green Bays hurry up offense. With him on the field we have legitimate threat at RB, and without subbing GB can just split him out wide to play WR. And as a side note, his stiff arm is fantastic.

  • JT

    Are you kidding me? The guy is a twig compared to some RBs…

    • Jephree Dagenais

      Not necessarily comparing talent, but Ezekial Elliot is 6’0″ 225lbs vs Montgomerys 6’0″ 220lbs and pretty much the same body type. And if he truly is converted to RB, I doubt adding a few more pounds of muscle mass is too big of an issue.

    • Nick Perry

      Not really JT. Montgomery is actually 6 feet and 1/2 inches tall and weighs 221 Lbs. Here’s some RB’s taken in 2014 and 15. All of these guys are comparable in size.

      David Johnson..6’1″ 224 Lbs
      Melvin Gordon..6’1″ 215 Lbs
      Jay Ajayi…6’0″ 221 Lbs.
      T.J. Yeldon…6’1″ 226 Lbs
      Tevin Coleman 5’11” 206
      Carlos Hyde…6’0″ 230 Lbs.
      Devante Freeman.. 5’8″ 206 Lbs

      I’m only comparing size listed at the combines and not comparing him to the backs themselves. But as a Packers fan I’ve been a huge supporter of Montgomery to be used out of the backfield since last year.

  • Phong Ta

    My one issue I’d take with Montgomery is that while it was great to see him break off so many big runs, he was VERY Boom-or-Bust. 144 of his 162 yards came on just 4 carries, with just 18 yards on the other 12. Some more consistency would be nice, but it was still a good first step in the right direction for him

  • Justin

    I agree with some of the article in that Montgomery has done very well when given a chance. However, in watching the actual game Montgomery has looked gassed at times. I just don’t see him stringing multiple carries back to back at this point and with his injury concerns last year and sickle cell anemia I think they should continue to use him as they did this past week.

    I think 10-15 carries and some targets as a receiver are perfect at this point.

    • Nelson Cobb

      Exactly. You can’t just go from touching the ball an average of 5-7 times a game at WR for the last 5+ years of football to touching it 20+ times at RB and expect to be physically conditioned for that kind of increase in workload. It’s gonna take a little time for him to get his body conditioned for the heavier workload in the future, and gonna take some time for his body to get use to the kind of beating a RB takes vs what a WR takes, it’s not even close. I agree with you on the touches going forward, make it in the 15-17 touch range, with 4-5 of em coming as a receiver out the backfield to get him in space.

  • Tommy

    It still is funny looking, seeing him run between the tackles and breaking free/popping out of the mass of humanity & accelerating into the DB area with that number 88 on back of his jersey. Kid has a wicked fierce stiff arm too for a WR(lol)

  • Klattu

    I think one of the reasons his snaps have been limited is that he has sickle cell trait.

  • james barklow

    If you watch the Monty movie then an old Jim Brown highlight reel the similarities are amazing. Yikes!