Ben Sirmans’ first season as Green Bay Packers running backs coach has been, shall we say, eventful.
Eddie Lacy, James Starks and John Crockett were supposed to form a three-man backfield. All three are injured, with Lacy and Crockett on injured reserve. They were replaced by Don Jackson, who wasn’t with the team for training camp, Knile Davis, who was acquired in a trade and has since been released, and Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver.
“It’s a first in terms of losing so many guys and having to come in and incorporate new guys and get them ready,” Sirmans, a 20-year coaching veteran, said on Thursday evening. “But I think a lot of it, when I look at what I did in St. Louis when I had a bunch of rookies to get ready to play, I’m just really going off that experience in dealing with these guys that I have now.”
While Starks returned to practice on Thursday, it was only for a snippet of individual drills. That means the Packers will have only one running back, the undrafted rookie Jackson, for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis. Unless you count Montgomery. And perhaps it’s time to consider Montgomery, never mind his “WR” designation on the Packers’ roster. He’s been working with the running backs for weeks — even before Lacy (ankle) and Starks (knee) went down.
“He pretty much spends a lot of time with me in my meeting room,” Sirmans said.
Without Lacy and Starks against Chicago, Montgomery played about 50 snaps at running back. He rushed nine times for 60 yards and caught 10 passes for 66 yards. He missed the Atlanta game due to symptoms of sickle cell trait but should be ready for Sunday.
“The thing that helps is, he’s got a great grasp of what to do as a receiver, whereas the running back position is obviously a little new for him in terms of this offense,” Sirmans said. “But he did it in high school, did some of it at Stanford, so we do spend a lot of time together and I think when a guy of his ability, when you can blend both at a pretty good level, it makes you a pretty good weapon to have.”
The other option is Jackson, who spent the offseason with the Packers. A broken jaw, however, led to Jackson being released just before the start of training camp. In a bizarre set of transactions at the end of the preseason, undrafted rookie Brandon Burks made the team as the third running back. But only for a day. The Packers cut Burks the next day. Instead of re-signing Burks to the practice squad, they signed Jackson. (Fittingly, the Packers filled out their practice squad this week by signing Burks.)
In two games, Jackson has rushed six times for 16 yards. Coach Mike McCarthy said Jackson will have a bigger role this week.
“The one thing about him is for a guy that’s a rookie, he really goes about his business as a professional,” Sirmans said. “He sits in the front, he takes a lot of notes, he asks a lot of questions. I was kind of surprised by his recall of the things that we do in this offense from OTAs, stuff that he learned during OTAs. That’s made the transition a little bit smoother because he was familiar with a lot of the things we did. So really it was more about just getting him caught up to some of the new concepts that we had in and then just reacquainting him with some of the things that we had done. The guy still had some of his notes, so that was good.”
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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.