Montgomery already familiar with Packers' offense
Ty Montgomery's eyes lit up as he walked to the middle of the Green Bay Packers' locker room Friday.
The media throng already was huddled, waiting for him. Reporters with cameras and tape recorders jostled for position.
Montgomery, smiling wide, stopped to take in the scene.
"Wow," he said. "This is different."
No, the Packers' third-round receiver isn't at Stanford anymore. This season, Montgomery's closest locker mates will be Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. It's a lot of pressure for any rookie, even without the cameras and reporters and national spotlight that comes with playing in the NFL.
Montgomery knows the attention he got Friday won't wane. He sees the green-and-gold, the Packers' universally recognized logo, and understands the magnitude of being in this place.
Montgomery said the significance is more inspiring than daunting.
"There's a lot of history here," he said, "and it is such an honor and a privilege to be part of this organization. But then I just think about it — and I mean this in the most humble way — but when I see that 'G' around here and on other people's shirts, there's also a 'G' on my shirt. So I don't want to lower myself or my standards. I'm here. They brought me here because they believe in me."
On the field, the difference between college and pro didn't feel quite as vast. Every rookie — including the Packers' eight draftees from last weekend — will transition into a new program over the days and weeks ahead. For each, the process will be different.
Montgomery's learning curve could be smoother than most.
With spread offenses sweeping across college football, Stanford hasn't been immune. Coach David Shaw's offense is multiple, but it's rooted in pro-style concepts. At times, it can look like a relic in an age of hurry-up, no-huddle chaos, but it fits nicely with many NFL schemes.
That includes Packers coach Mike McCarthy's hybrid-West Coast offense, Montgomery said. At Stanford, he watched film of the Packers' offense. He said some of their concepts were taken from McCarthy's system. Now, he hopes the film study pays off.
"It's really not that different," he said. "Football is football. The way we run things at Stanford is pretty similar to this. … The offense is pretty similar."
Last week, Packers scout Sam Seale called Montgomery "a bigger Randall Cobb." Even without pads, Montgomery is imposing. His 6-foot, 216-pound body looks prepared for the abuse of NFL collisions, the kind he'll see frequently catching underneath passes across the middle.
Montgomery is built more like a running back than receiver, with the versatility to play both.
"Obviously, has a ton of explosion in his body," McCarthy said.
On Friday, Montgomery shrugged off the comparison. "I can't say I'm Randall Cobb," he said. But stylistically, Stanford used Montgomery's versatility much like the Packers use Cobb's ability to line up all over the field.
Montgomery lined up in the slot only 20 percent of snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus. That's much less than Cobb, who was fourth in the NFL last season with 87.3 percent of his routes coming from the slot. But both players have been stretched wide, in the slot and even in the backfield.
"I could definitely see myself doing it," Montgomery said of having a versatile role. "Whether or not the coaches decide to allow me to do that, it's up to them. I just run the plays, I don't call them. So we'll see."
Even as Stanford's best playmaker, Montgomery was used unconventionally in the Cardinal offense. His best attribute — the ability to run after the catch — meant a heavy dose of short routes last season. Thirty-two percent of his routes were receiver screens, with 23 percent coming on hitches. Only 12 percent were go routes, according to Pro Football Focus.
Montgomery caught 26-of-31 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown on receiver screens. He only caught 1-of-12 passes for 32 yards on go-routes.
Of his 99 targets last fall, 63 were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
But Montgomery can run "the full route tree," he insisted. If anything, he said, his short-area quickness needs further development. At Stanford, he simply wasn't asked to run routes downfield very often.
"I can't really say (why)," he said. "I've heard our coach say we had protection issues, so we didn't really have the time to get the ball down the field. Other times, probably my best strength is probably my run after the catch, just getting the ball in my hands."
It's too early to predict how the Packers will use Montgomery. With a crowded receiver position, special teams appears to be the quickest way he'll get the football.
Montgomery was a dynamic kick and punt returner at Stanford. He had five special teams touchdowns, with four coming in his past two seasons. His 19.8 yards per punt return last season would've led the nation, but his 12 returns weren't enough to qualify. He also averaged 25.2 yards on 17 kickoff returns.
"I think a good return man has speed, quickness, a will to break tackles and find the end zone," Montgomery said. "There's no second down on special teams, so you can't be complacent. As a return man, you have to be willing to fight."
Whenever he has the ball — on returns, after the catch — Montgomery shows an uncommon ability to break tackles. He forced 17 missed tackles on 61 catches last season. If that carries over to the NFL, it'll go a long way toward securing the Packers' open kickoff return job, a vacancy left with the offseason departure of running back DuJuan Harris.
Montgomery stopped short of promising anything, but he knows special teams is the pathway to playing time.
"Not just a return man," Montgomery said. "Any special teams. If I'm covering punts, I'll cover kickoffs, I'll play gunner — it really doesn't matter. ... I don't care. Any kind of special teams is the fastest way to get on the field."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.