There’s always danger in projecting too far down the line after just one week of training camp. However, rookie receiver Ty Montgomery’s impressive start must have the Green Bay Packers’ coaches pondering the possibilities on how he could impact the league’s top-ranked scoring offense.
Montgomery has been one of the best players on the field during these early stages of camp. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams entrenched as the top three receivers, Montgomery’s early emergence could have the Packers going back to the future.
In 2012, with Cobb, Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings providing an elite four-man group and Donald Driver in reserve, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass 89 times with a four-receiver set. In 2014, with the rookie Adams emerging as the third receiver and Jarrett Boykin flopping after a promising 2013, Rodgers had four receivers on the field for only 50 dropbacks.
Rodgers was quick to pump the brakes on the Montgomery Express for fear of placing too high of expectations on the third-round pick. Cobb, after all, had only 25 catches in 2011, Nelson 33 in 2008 and Adams 38 last season. Playing receiver as a rookie is difficult. It’s a position in which one mental mistake can turn into six points for the defense.
“It just depends on how he progresses,” Rodgers said on Thursday. “We’re not going to put too much on him. If you look at Randall’s first year, he played a lot on special teams and not a ton on offense. Jordy, his first couple of years he was our kickoff returner, punt returner and kind of eased him into it. Ty has a ton of athletic ability, and it’s going to be about opportunities for him. Right now, we’ve got two guys who caught 90 balls and an emerging star in Davante. We’ll find spots for him to contribute, but we don’t need to put too many expectations on him because he’s a great kid and he’s got a bright future for us.”
The snaps for the No. 4 receiver — whether it’s Montgomery or Jeff Janis, who’s had a quiet camp — could be limited by second-year tight end Richard Rodgers, who came on strong down the stretch last season. The role of the fullback or fullbacks will factor, too, considering how the run-game productivity went from good to excellent once John Kuhn got more playing time.
Still, coach Mike McCarthy is all about matchups. Presumably, that line of thinking has filtered down to assistant head coach Tom Clements and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett. If Montgomery truly emerges as a threat, would any team have four cornerbacks capable of matching up against Green Bay’s four-receiver sets? And with all of those defensive backs on the field, the Packers surely would believe they have an advantage with 234-pound Eddie Lacy running behind one of the best lines in the game.
“It just allows us to be more diverse in what we do,” Nelson said. “To be honest with you, we’d probably still run the same plays but it’s just more receivers out there. We’ve always (thought) the more DBs we can get on the field, we feel that our third, fourth and fifth receivers are going to be better than their third, fourth or fifth DB. That’s where we want to get to. Then you create matchup problems. We’ve had that in the past. The past couple years, we haven’t been as deep. I think this year there’s a chance to get back to it.”
Interestingly, Rodgers has been good but not great in four-receiver sets. In 2012, he had a 90.5 rating with four-receiver sets compared to an overall mark of 108.0. In 2014, he had a rating of 104.3 with four-receiver sets compared to 112.2 overall. Some of the difference is because of a decrease in yards per attempt, since four- and five-receiver sets typically lead to more quick passes. In 2014, he averaged 6.33 per attempt vs. 8.43 overall. In 2012, he averaged 6.64 per attempt with four receivers vs. 7.78 overall.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.