One of the most under appreciated aspects of the Packers’ offense is the running game. With back to back Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Packers fans have had the luxury of watching some of the best passing offenses in the league for a very long time. Perhaps overlooked at times is how important the emergence of the run game was to the Packers Super Bowl run in 2010. Now that Eddie Lacy is gone to the Seahawks, the Packers turn over responsibility to Ty Montgomery with Aaron Ripkowski set to be a part of the puzzle as well.
Montgomery showed himself to be elusive and strong after contact. He played a vital role in goal-line situations in the Packers’ win over the Cowboys in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs. Ty is powerful, fluid, and has added mass this off-season. All-in-all, Montgomery looks like he has the ability to carry the lion’s share of the load at running back.
Aaron Ripkowski may be best remembered for his crucial fumble in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta, but that tells only the smallest part of the story. Rip was another “discovery” that resulted from the loss of Lacy and Starks at the same time. He is powerful, smart, and has the ability to carry tacklers. The line loves to block for Rip and because he is also able to catch out of the backfield, he creates more mismatches than one would think. I look for him to be paired with Bennett in the inverted wishbone and that will strike fear into opposing defenses.
Along with the two incumbents, Packer Nation must not forget the several rookies that the Packers drafted this year. While I do not expect any of the UDFA’s to make the team, I do expect our rookie crop of running backs to make waves. I did a write up on each of them as they all possess different strengths and weaknesses and skillsets.
One or more of the rooks has got to step up for several reasons, not least of all is that Ty Montgomery will need to be rested during games. But the Packers also like to have two somewhat interchangeable tailbacks and the rookies have a lot to learn about the Packers’ scheme and protection
Between Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays the Packers should find the right fit and I expect the impact period to be in November and December regardless of who it is. Ty will have had a lot of carries by that point and the Packers will be wanting to focus on the ground game in those months particularly at home where the weather can be a factor.
All in all, I think Green Bay is set at running back. How good do they have to be? Well that is the best part. The Packers running game does not have to be a 50/50 partner with the passing game. On a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, that would be a tragedy. But the combination of Ty and Rip and the presence of a rookie performer will be not only a shot in the arm in November and December, but also an additional headache for defensive coordinators to lose sleep over.
One of the best aspects of the Packers’ projected running game is that it is so multiple. Each individual back is exactly that…an individual. Montgomery has few weaknesses but each of the rookies brings something different to the table whatever the question marks may be. As the coaching staff gets to work with them and find out who picks up the offense fastest and who performs the best, good things are in store not just for the Packers’ running game, but for the offense as a whole.
I wouldn’t expect the Packers’ rushing attack to rank high in the league next year. Part of the reason is because our starter is also a starting caliber wide receiver. Another reason is the plethora of offensive weapons the Packers now have available to them in the passing game. Finally, I see Mike McCarthy using multiple sets based on matchups and the running game figuring strongly into some games and much less in others. The point is to win and these running backs will need to perform when called upon. I think they may be middle of the Pack in terms of overall yards per game, but if they are…I think the Packers may close out the season on top.