What a first year it’s been for Green Bay Packers running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
There was all the offseason drama about Eddie Lacy’s weight.
Promising undrafted rookie Don Jackson was released before the start of training camp with a broken jaw.
John Crockett had all but won the No. 3 job but injured a shoulder in the third preseason game at San Francisco. A few days later, he was placed on injured reserve.
Brandon Burks made the roster as the No. 3 back — but only for a day. The Packers cut Burks and signed Jackson to the practice squad.
Early in the season — and before the injury bug really dispensed its venom to the backfield depth chart — Sirmans started teaching receiver Ty Montgomery the nuances of playing running back.
After his dismal 2015 season, Lacy got off to a great start to 2016 but turned an ankle against the Giants.
James Starks got off to a miserable start — and then it got worse with a knee injury that required surgery.
Lacy showed his guts by gimping through the game against Dallas but wound up going on injured reserve because of the ankle.
Without Lacy, Starks and Crockett, the Packers promoted Jackson and traded for Knile Davis, meaning Sirmans had to work overtime to get Davis ready for a game that would be played only two days later.
“It’s all the things that go on behind closed doors,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday, one day after a 26-10 victory over Chicago. “Don Jackson and Knile Davis and Aaron Rodgers (spent) an hour-and-a-half at the hotel Wednesday night. That’s the kind of stuff that you just got to keep working through.”
There was no immediate payoff, though. That’s because Jackson carried twice against the Bears but sustained a hand injury when he was crushed on an incomplete pass. That left the Packers with receiver-turned-runner Montgomery and newcomer Davis, who also carried twice. While those meager contributions were enough against Chicago, with Montgomery taking the lion’s shares of the reps and piling up 126 yards from scrimmage, Jackson needs to show he can contribute and Davis needs to get up to speed in a hurry to provide an offense free of too many predictable cues.
Despite his bittersweet NFL debut, Jackson was Mr. Positive after the game.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t trade it for nothing, I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was short but it was sweet. I won’t lie to you. It was probably the sweetest experience I had in my life.”
As for Davis, Thursday was the culmination of some of the craziest days of his football life. Last Monday, after Davis enjoyed a Victory Monday following the Chiefs’ victory at Oakland, he learned he had been traded to Green Bay. He arrived in Green Bay on Tuesday morning and got a crash course in the offense.
“The coaches did a good job,” Davis said after the game. “I got my feet wet. I think Lambeau’s an awesome atmosphere. I think we have a great O-line. It was good to get behind those guys. Obviously, we have a great quarterback. It was good to mesh with the guys. After the game, they were like, ‘Welcome to the Pack,’ so I felt a part of it.”
Until Starks returns, Montgomery probably will remain the focal point of the backfield. He lined up 49 times in the backfield against Chicago and, like he was the week before against Dallas, showed he was a matchup nightmare with his second consecutive 10-reception game. After the game, Rodgers said Montgomery is “a running back now” — a fact hammered home by the decision to promote receiver Geronimo Allison on Monday. What Montgomery’s role will be if Starks can return to form and Davis or Jackson find a role remains to be seen.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Montgomery said. “I’m just going to take it day by day, and then wherever my career ends up, that’s how it ends up.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.