Coach Mike McCarthy is providing more of a voice on special teams.
Ty Montgomery, however, might provide the most impact to a special teams that finished at the bottom of the Dallas Morning News’ annual rankings.
The Green Bay Packers used a third-round pick on Montgomery, even though they were loaded at wide receiver. On offense, Montgomery has been a sensation through the first two weeks of training camp. However, his biggest impact could come as a kickoff returner, an area where the Packers ranked 31st in 2014 and 30th in 2013.
Football might be the ultimate team sport but a returner can cover up a lot of sins. A great returner can beat the man or two that gets past a group of mediocre blockers.
“No question, it’s the returner (that’s most important),” Zook said on Tuesday. “When you’ve got a guy like Micah (Hyde) that’s returned three (for touchdowns) in two years, that’s special. You go back and look at returns, a lot of times in returns for touchdowns the guys don’t really do a great job of blocking. The guy just makes him miss. I’ve also seen, too, when you’ve got a guy who’s a good returner that your guys block harder because they know they’ve got a guy that can take it the distance. They do everything they can do to try to get him there. You look at some of those returns (by Devin Hester), I mean, holy smokes, they didn’t block a soul.”
Nobody is comparing Montgomery to Hester. Hester’s the NFL’s all-time leader in return touchdowns while Montgomery hasn’t even made his preseason debut. His college resume, however, is outstanding, with a 27.4-yard average and three touchdowns while at Stanford.
Certainly, he has to be better than DuJuan Harris, who ranked next-to-last in the NFL with a 20.7-yard average last season.
“Being a returner is hard,” Montgomery said. “And also blocking for the returner is very hard, so you have to understand that. I guess you could say some people have a knack for it but also, at the same time, I think special teams is purely effort — effort by the blockers and by the returner and by the guys covering the kicks.”
Scouting the return prospects before the draft, Zook liked Montgomery’s power, quickness and ability to “run through smoke.” He’s flashed that ability in camp, though he won’t take a truly live rep until Thursday’s preseason game at New England.
“He’s done a good job so far back there,” Zook said. “I really liked him coming out of college. He and the guy from Kansas State (Tyler Lockett, who was drafted by Seattle early in the third round) were the two best, I thought, coming out. Ty’s a big guy, smart guy. He wants to know where guys are and who’s got the tough blocks, which I think’s pretty impressive.”
Montgomery has made one impressive play after another on offense, but with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams at receiver and Eddie Lacy in the backfield, Montgomery’s impact on offense probably will be limited. It’s special teams where he can make a big impact.
“Special teams are very important. There is no second, third or fourth down on special teams,” he said. “That's the one play, whether it's a punt, punt return, kick, kickoff return, field goal, that you change field position significantly and very quickly and you could also score at any point in time. So it's very important.”
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.