Montgomery making most of limited role
GREEN BAY – Ty Montgomery emerged from the Green Bay Packers special teams meeting Monday afternoon still talking about his blocked punt from Sunday night.
Devon Cajuste, a practice-squad receiver, walked by his side. He described how the play looked on TV. How Montgomery flashed through the middle of the Minnesota Vikings’ protection. How he volleyball spiked the football off Vikings punter Jeff Locke’s foot.
“It set up a touchdown,” Montgomery said a couple minutes later at his locker. “Flopped field position tremendously.”
Montgomery smiled as Cajuste mimicked the play. Punt-block extraordinaire? Sure, Montgomery likes the sound of that.
It just wasn’t Montgomery’s expected role entering his second NFL season.
A year ago, Montgomery was carving a place for himself in the Packers' passing game. Two touchdowns in a three-game stretch. He was rolling.
An ankle injury ended his rookie season after six weeks, but it was only natural to expect Montgomery would pick up where he left off. Then the season started.
Montgomery didn’t play an offensive snap in Minnesota. Just 11 snaps at Jacksonville in the opener. No yards, no catches, no targets.
His role has been diminished to Sunday night punt blocks, Monday afternoon special teams meetings, and smiling through his frustration.
“I think special teams is just running fast,” Montgomery said, “and making a play. Special teams is effort, getting to the blocked punt, making a play.”
Jared Abbrederis played six offensive snaps Sunday. Rookie Trevor Davis played five. Not much, but more than Montgomery. If play time correlates with the depth chart, Montgomery would be at the bottom.
He at least found a way to contribute. Montgomery never was a punt blocker before this year, and even then he joined the unit late. He said his first time rushing a punter was in the Packers’ preseason finale at the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the first quarter in Kansas City, Montgomery broke through the left side of the line, extended both arms, and the Packers got possession at the Chiefs’ 14-yard line. So the Packers kept Montgomery on their punt-block team. Two weeks later in Minnesota, same thing.
“He’s a powerful guy,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “He’s a quick guy. He’s quick off the ball. We’ve got him doing some different things, so it’s not always going to be the same thing. He’s got a little knack for it.
“You find out sometimes that guys have a knack for it.”
The Packers don’t allow each player on the line of scrimmage to rush the punter. Zook said they designate certain players. Montgomery’s blend of strength, speed and athletic burst form an ideal combination.
They are traits the Packers could use at receiver. Through two games, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is averaging a career-low 5.9 yards per pass. His career average is 8.0.
No, Rodgers isn’t playing at the same level he has for most of his first eight seasons as the Packers’ starter. He isn’t getting help, either. Jordy Nelson is averaging 9.5 yards per catch; Randall Cobb just nine yards. Davante Adams is averaging 12.7.
None of the Packers’ top three receivers rank in the league’s top 55 in average yards per catch. Nelson and Cobb rank outside the top 100.
The Packers kept seven receivers on their 53-man roster — more than ever under general manager Ted Thompson — in theory to have some variety. Through two games, Nelson and Cobb each have played more than 90 percent of the Packers' offensive snaps. Adams, the third receiver, has played 83 percent.
Montgomery has played 8.1 percent.
In an awkward moment Monday, Montgomery was asked about the Packers’ offensive struggles against the Vikings. He didn’t have much of an explanation. How could he?
“I did a lot of watching,” Montgomery said, “and I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the offense. I wasn’t playing. It’s just how the game went.”
The Packers’ reliance on three receivers shows a philosophical shift in McCarthy’s approach as a play-caller.
There was a time, McCarthy said, when he mixed personnel for certain plays. Substitutions were frequent, like different lines in hockey.
Now, McCarthy wants his offense to go fast. No huddle. No letting off the gas. In theory, the Packers’ high-octane tempo should wear out a defense. Keeping the same players on the field eliminates substituting, leaving fresh bodies on the sideline.
“You really have a decision one way or the other,” McCarthy said. “Do you want to play personnel formation exactly this player to this play? We played like that at one time here. We do that sometimes in situations, and there’s times where we don’t. We play tempo and no-huddle.
“So the ability to do both is important. Especially over the course of the season, and the utilization of the players in both formats, is important because it definitely challenges the defense.”
So far, the Packers haven’t used both formats.
Instead of tailoring their personnel to specific plays, they’ve chosen a fast-paced no huddle. It hasn’t worked. Maybe McCarthy will adjust.
Montgomery will be ready if he does. He wouldn’t say whether it was surprising to not play Sunday night, but it certainly is less of a role than expected. In time, perhaps he’ll emerge from the bottom of the depth chart.
“It’s just how the game unfolded,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always said, I’m not in charge of the depth chart and who gets what, how many reps. I mean, obviously, I want to play. But that’s just not how things worked out.
“It’s not up to me. I don’t know. I can tell you I come into work every single day, and I work hard. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m more than willing and ready to do.”
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