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Scouting Jets running back Ty Montgomery

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NFL: AFC Wild Card-Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the new league year underway, we’ve been breaking down each of the Jets’ new additions in detail. We continue today with former Packers running back Ty Montgomery.

The 26-year old Montgomery is listed at 6’0” and 215 pounds and was a third round pick out of Stanford in 2015. Having initially been drafted as a wide receiver, Montgomery converted to running back during the 2016 season. During his career, mostly with the Packers, he’s rushed for 932 yards, caught 107 passes and scored 10 touchdowns, plus two more in postseason action. He ended up with the Ravens last year, following a midseason trade.

Background

Montgomery - a five-sport star in high school - was recruited to Stanford in 2011 and caught 172 passes for 2,125 yards and 15 touchdowns in four years. He also rushed for 334 yards and four touchdowns and accounted for five more touchdowns as a return man.

After being a solid role player in his first two years, Montgomery broke out with 61 catches for a career-high 958 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior and earned all-American honors as a return man. As a senior, his production was down but he matched his career-high with 61 receptions and also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Montgomery had mixed results at the scouting combine, but was drafted by the Packers in the third round. He showed some flashes as a rookie but ended up with just 15 catches for 136 yards and two scores in six games before landing on injured reserve in December.

In 2016, he wasn’t seeing much playing time at wide receiver but was called into action as a running back following a series of injuries. He fared well in this role, catching 10 passes in consecutive weeks and then breaking out with a 162-yard rushing performance in December.

The switch to running back was confirmed as permanent at that time, as Montgomery helped the Packers reach the NFC title game with 81 yards from scrimmage and two scores in a narrow win over Dallas.

In 2017, Montgomery opened the year as the starting running back but his season was blighted by injuries, causing him to miss eight games.

His production was down last year and he ended up being hastily traded after a costly fumble in the late stages of a loss to the Rams. The Ravens, who acquired Montgomery for a future seventh-round pick, saw modest production from Montgomery (148 yards from scrimmage) in his six regular season games with them and he returned kick-offs for them in their lone play-off game. However, they opted not to re-sign him.

The Jets elected to sign Montgomery to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum last week.

Now let’s take a look at what Montgomery brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Montgomery has pretty good size for the running back position and showcased his athleticism with an impressive 40.5” vertical at the scouting combine. He ran 4.55 in the 40-yard dash but posted average agility numbers. He did the bench press at his pro day, posting 16 reps.

Usage

The switch from wide receiver to running back wasn’t as out there as it first seemed, given that he had played the position in high school and carried the ball 23 times in his senior year in college.

Although Montgomery plays the majority of his reps in the backfield, he’s obviously also comfortable lining up out wide or in the slot.

Running ability

Montgomery took to the running back position well, faring well on plays where he had a one cut read or could follow a blocker on an iso play.

He made decisive upfield cuts, showed good burst and flashed the ability to elude the first man at the second level.

During the 2017 offseason, after the move to running back had been made permanent, Montgomery worked with a coach nicknamed “The Footwork King”, Rischad Whitfield, after which he seemed to run with a more balanced style. Whitfield has also worked with Le’Veon Bell and, after spending time with him, Montgomery started to show some of the same patience in his running style.

Montgomery has been more of a rotational back than a workhorse, carrying more than 10 times in just three games. The most carries he ever had was in 2017’s season opener where he gained just 54 yards on 19 carries.

Pass catching

The majority of Montgomery’s production in the passing game has been on dump-off passes and check downs, but his ability to follow his blockers and be elusive in space is useful, as is his ability to finish runs strongly.

Downfield threat

Even when he was at wide receiver, virtually all of Montgomery’s production came as a possession receiver on short passes.

He caught a few passes over the middle but never really showed much ability to get downfield separation. However, last season, he had the longest reception of his career on this blown coverage as he ran a route out of the backfield.

Routes

Although he’s mostly been used as a possession option, Montgomery’s experience as a wide receiver makes him comfortable with route running assignments. The Packers perhaps didn’t attempt to exploit this as much as they could have, though.

Hands

Even though he spent a year and a half as a receiver, Montgomery has an impressive 82 percent catch rate at the NFL level, although - as noted - most of these were short passes and therefore high-percentage throws.

In his highlight reel, Montgomery has made a few diving catches although one of these could arguably have been ruled as a drop because it hit the turf and seemed to move. Overall, Montgomery hasn’t had many drops, but this one was costly.

Red zone

As a receiver, Montgomery only had one touchdown in the red zone, as he lost his man on an out-breaking route to the pylon.

Short yardage

In regular season action, Montgomery has three touchdown runs from the goal line and three more from inside the five-yard line. He also has another two short touchdowns in postseason action.

Blocking

Montgomery graded out reasonably well as a run blocker while he was a wide receiver and has adjusted well to the blitz pick-up responsibilities of being a running back.

He has worked hard at improving in that area but there are times when he has lapses and surrenders pressure.

Physicality

Montgomery is good at using his speed to bounce outside, but generated the majority of his production on runs up the middle. He finishes runs well and also shows off a nasty stiff-arm.

Special Teams

In college, Montgomery put up great numbers as a return man with five total touchdowns. He was third in the nation in kick return yardage in his junior year. He has less experience as a punt returner, but averaged almost 20 yards per return and had two scores when given the role in his senior year.

At the pro level, Montgomery has had plenty of work as a kick-off returner but has averaged a pedestrian 22 yards per return with a longest return of 46 yards.

Other than as a return man, Montgomery has just one special teams tackle and two penalties as a blocker. He also had one roughing the kicker penalty, but did block this punt.

Instincts

Montgomery showed off his football IQ on this play which he fielded with his feet out of bounds so the resultant penalty flag moved the ball out to the 40.

He seems to show improving vision and instincts as a runner and his experience as a receiver will no doubt help him in the passing game.

Attitude

Prior to his trade from Green Bay to Baltimore, Montgomery was involved in a controversial incident which saw him fumble on a kick-off return with two minutes left in the 29-27 loss to the Rams.

The fumble basically ended the game, as reports suggested Montgomery had defied an order to take a knee, preventing a furious Aaron Rodgers from getting a chance to win the game on the ensuing drive.

While Montgomery was disappointed to see his character called into question - and was backed up by some teammates - it obviously unsettled the roster and led to his exit. The media had been told that Montgomery had “thrown a tantrum” on the sidelines after being taken out of the game a few minutes before his fumble.

He otherwise is considered as having a good attitude and his position switch was viewed as a selfless team-first move.

On the field, his discipline is good. He’s only had three offensive penalties.

Injuries

While at college, Montgomery was diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait which is often thought to lead to the potential for more injuries. However, he’s said to have it under control.

He has had some injury issues over the course of his career though, including an ankle injury late in his rookie year which landed him on injured reserve and required offseason surgery that caused him to miss most of the following offseason program.

In 2017, he missed time with broken ribs and then injured them again and missed more time later in the year. Then he landed on injured reserve with a late season wrist injury.

He missed three games last year, but these were as a healthy scratch.

Scheme Fit

The Packers operate a zone blocking scheme much like Frank Pollack, the Jets’ new offensive line coach, usually does. Montgomery should therefore feel comfortable within the Jets’ system. However, he did enjoy a lot of success out of two-back sets which are something Adam Gase’s offenses don’t seem to use much.

His ability to potentially save the Jets a roster spot (or an active spot on gameday) by being an option to fill in at wide receiver will be attractive from a roster management perspective.

Conclusions

While Montgomery has experience and has shown he can be productive at the NFL level, it would be premature to assume the number two running back role will belong to him.

He’s only signed a one-year deal and can easily be released if the team opts to go in another direction, so must stay healthy to earn his spot. The Jets may be hoping that youngsters Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon can elevate their game to challenge Montgomery for that role. In a similar situation last year, veteran Thomas Rawls failed to beat out the younger incumbents.

With both McGuire and Cannon - in addition to Bell - being adept pass catchers, Montgomery fits well within this stable of backs and his additional potential contributions on special teams could provide further value.