Why Ty Montgomery is Green Bay’s new matchup weapon

Due to a injuries at the RB position, Ty Montgomery manned the backfield for the Packers on Thursday.

| 2 months ago
Ty Montgomery

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Why Ty Montgomery is Green Bay’s new matchup weapon


Ty Montgomery isn’t just a better running back than he is a receiver—and the answer to Green Bay’s injury crisis at the position—but he might just be the spark and X-factor that’s been missing from this offense and causing it to drift in a funk all season.

Colleges are pretty good at just getting the ball in the hands of playmakers; the NFL…not so much.

Neither Stanford nor the Green Bay Packers have ever really had a great idea what to do with Ty Montgomery, but Stanford at least were pretty good at just getting him the ball while they tried to figure it out.

At Stanford, like in Green Bay, Montgomery was listed as a wideout, but most of his receptions were quick bubble-screen type throws, and they also used him everywhere else they could think of. He returned kicks and punts for the Cardinal, ran the ball out of the backfield and featured in a kind of Wildcat package in which they would direct-snap him the ball and let him run it behind a lead blocker—the same package you still see Christian McCaffrey run today for the team.

Ty Montgomery carry

Montgomery was a tough player to evaluate as a draft prospect because they didn’t use him as a traditional wide receiver, rather a dangerous ball-carrier that they just tried to get the ball to in space. His route tree was Spartan at best, and what routes he did run looked forced and unnatural. His hands were poor, and he routinely dropped even the easiest of catches. He looked like a player that was thinking about everything he did, step by step.

At the time, the PFF analysis team evaluated him as a low-level draft prospect who “had something to work with.” What did he have to work with? Well, the key to it was that we thought he was a running back—and a pretty good one—masquerading at receiver.

To Montgomery’s credit, he has looked far more natural as a receiver in Green Bay than he ever did at Stanford. The Packers have seemed less focused on just force-feeding him the football and have expected him to actually earn those touches the same way any other receiver does—by getting open.

That focus on the position has seen him look far more comfortable with running routes, and now that he knows what he’s doing, his hands have seemingly improved, too. He has been thrown at 38 times so far in his NFL career, and has yet to drop a pass. He had five drops in 99 targets in his final season at Stanford, including three in one game against Notre Dame, and some very suspect-looking successful catches.

So far this season, Montgomery has been thrown the ball 20 times and caught all 20 of them.

But this week against the Bears, and with Green Bay’s injury crisis at the running back position, we got to see Montgomery play what I believe to be his natural position—running back. He was in the backfield on 49 of his 62 snaps against the Bears, and carried the ball nine times for 60 yards. He ended the game with 126 yards from scrimmage.

At draft time, some likened him to Cordarrelle Patterson as a player with clear playmaking ability, but who just doesn’t quite fit the cookie-cutter niches the NFL has carved out for players. I think there is a very real difference between the two players in terms of build, though. Patterson is built like a wide receiver, he just plays like a running back. Montgomery has the running back’s build to go along with the skill set.

The latter isn’t just a guy who needs gimmick touches and sideline run plays to space. He can carry between the tackles and deliver—not just take—contact.

The Packers have had Randall Cobb for several years now, another player that has dabbled with backfield carries, but again the difference is in size and build. Cobb’s backfield carries have dried up over the years because he is under 6-foot and weighs around 190 pounds. They need to get him the ball in space, and he can only have a certain volume and type of backfield carry. Montgomery is two inches taller and has around 25 pounds on Cobb. Those are significant numbers when you’re talking about taking on defenders between the tackles.

That extra bulk gives him not just the ability to carry the ball more and into tougher spots, but to do the dirty work of a running back, too. Take this play from last night’s game where Montgomery steps up and picks up the blitz from a linebacker, allowing the ball to come out on rhythm. Now imagine Randall Cobb trying to do the same thing.

Ty Montgomery blitz

Montgomery is a natural running back, but the really intriguing thing about moving him back there now is that he has been seasoned as a wide receiver, at least to the point he is competent there—for a running back. Montgomery now becomes a far more dangerous matchup problem for a defense than if the Packers had just drafted him as a running back all along.

Against the Bears, the team repeatedly motioned him out of the backfield and lined him up at receiver, putting Chicago in a bind because they were usually treating him as a running back from a personnel standpoint. That left him matched up with safeties and linebackers, which for a slot receiver by trade, should be a huge advantage.

The bottom line here is that the answer to the Green Bay running back problems lies in Ty Montgomery. He has always been a natural running back, but just hasn’t had a team commit to developing him there. If the Packers embrace this position switch, they could have a genuinely devastating playmaker on their hands, and one that could become a true matchup problem for defenses because of the work they have done to turn him into a real wide receiver.

Montgomery was always a dangerous playmaker, but one that didn’t really know how to play any one position. Now he just may be on the verge of understanding two different ones, making him a huge potential weapon for an offense crying out for a catalyst.

| Senior Analyst

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

  • Ferrari_Driver

    If true, that is the type of article that Packer fans love.

  • Paul yukho

    The GD question is why am I paying $50 for information after it comes out, it doesn’t take a genious to see this. I thought paying for this service that PFF would have predicted this based off all your hours and hours and hours and hours of Game film and advanced analytics… SMFH

    • PFFSamMonson

      you mean like where I called it 18 months ago?

      • AJ

        He’s on fantasy team for this exact reason. Almost started him and am currently regretting it

      • Kevin Mark Cvetan

        Damn Paul. You got served bro.

      • Paul yukho

        I mean like, not one article about him until after he goes off. Telling us what we saw is great and all but I’m expecting you guys to expect him to go off, based off your extensive research of coarse, and than explain how and why. If you can show me an article where anyone did so than I’ll take back what I said. He was 1% owned inthe MNF TNF only tournament. With a limited amount of wr to chose from no one picked him. He’s a complete surprise.

    • carlosfromphilly

      You really only had to watch the Dallas game to know what he was going to bring…

      Are you paying 50$ for someone to watch football for you??

      • Paul yukho

        He was 1% owned so apparently no one watches football

  • martineast

    Just happy to see Ty get to showcase his skills. He can provide a match-up problem and runs like a beast. Seeing him hit the hole 10x faster than Eddy was refreshing change of pace.

  • Brian Dugan

    There were glimpses of his skill set last year during his rookie year. He actually started pretty strongly. It might be a coincidence, but the wheels really fell off the Packers offense last year when Ty was injured (for what turned out to be the rest of the season).

  • Brian

    The kid had a good game but this is a knee jerk reaction if I’ve ever seen one. It was ONE game. I don’t think ANY competent analyst is ready to anoint an otherwise average player to date as the spark gb’s offense needed after ONE game. That sounds more like the uneducated guesses that the wannabe analyst media reporters lay claim to. And rarely does ONE player rejuvenate an offense unless that player is a qb or a truly transcendent player which I think is safe to say Montgomery is not. This is even more so when speaking in terms of the long term effect said player will have. Sure, Montgomery was a vital spark for ONE game. But I think we should wait at minimum until the end of the regular season until we go saying this guy is gonna make Rodgers be Rodgers again.

    • Kevin Mark Cvetan

      He had TWO good games though. TWO. Yes TWO. Lol.

      • Brian

        Lol! He had ONE good game as a rusher. He had ONE good game where he provided a spark for the offense. The Dallas game lacked spark from anyone on the gb offense. He had a good game statistically as a wr, but he didn’t really provide much spark. Again, I’m not saying he won’t provide a spark, but saying his rushing ability/receiving ability is what the offense needs is extremely premature. It remains to be seen if he can consistently produce as well as consistently provide the spark the offense needs.

    • Kevin

      For what it’s worth he has had two very successful games in a row and was also looking like he could be a big spark last year during his rookie year before an injury kept him out for the remainder of the season. Last year with him in the lineup it almost looked like GB was barely going to miss a beat without Jordy. Ty was starting to look like a raw playmaker with a lot of ability that was still making a bigger difference for the offense than the numbers would indicate. GB happened to be 6-0 before he went down with an injury and GB finished 4-6 without him. When he’s been healthy and had opportunities he has had moments of brilliance. The last 2 weeks has seen him put up over 160 yards receiving on 20 receptions on 25 passes and 66 yards rushing on 14 carries for 4.7 ypc. If he can become a competent short yardage rusher then this guy will be special IMO. Obviously it will be a process for him learning the RB position in the NFL. He instantly becomes one of the best receiving backs in the NFL though without a question.

      • Brian

        I can’t say I disagree w anything u said, just not willing to say he’s the missing piece to gb’s offense until I see the production on a consistent basis for an extended period.

    • carlosfromphilly

      For someone that feels so passionately about this, you might want to check out the Dallas game. He racked up ten catches and finished with over 100 yards in that one too…

      • Brian

        I did in fact watch the Dallas game & that doesn’t change my opinion whatseover. In a game Dallas won comfortably in gb, gb’s offense lacked spark from anyone. And my comment is more about his contributions as a rusher as this is the subject of the article. And in the game versus Dallas he had 3 rushes for 6 yards. He had 10 catches for 98 yards. I suppose that production could add a spark, but I’m still not convinced it will help make gb’s offense elite again until I see that happen for an extended period.

        • Briansatwat

          Ka-Durrh?!

  • Peasy E

    Glad to see Ty doing well. Coming out of Stanford I didn’t see him making an impact in the NFL because of his suspect hands, but the hybrid RB/flex-out-WR thing seems like a great fit. He’s a physical specimen for sure.