GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brandon Jackson couldn’t block a blitzing linebacker or safety to save Brett Favre's life when the Green Bay Packers picked him in the second round of the 2007 draft.
By the time he left Green Bay as a free agent four years later, he was one of the NFL’s best pass-protecting running backs. In fact, at one point Pro Football Focus rated him No. 1 in the league in that category.
So who better to teach converted receiver Ty Montgomery the finer points of blitz pickups than Jackson? The 31-year-old, who turned into a solid third-down back in part because of his ability to pass block, has spent the spring with the Packers as a minority coaching intern.
Just about everywhere anyone looked on the practice field this week during minicamp, there was Jackson at Montgomery’s side.
“He’s helped me a lot, and he’s helped me develop into the guy that he ended up being,” Montgomery said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s shown me everything that he’s learned and given me his mindset and all the technique that he has.”
The Packers would not make Jackson available for an interview this week, but other coaches spoke about the influence he’s had on Montgomery in his transition to a new position.
“Brandon by far was one of the best when it came to, from a protection standpoint, being fundamentally sound and certainly being sound as far as knowing his assignment and the fundamentals and technique of how to get it done,” said Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, a former NFL running back himself. “He was one of the best by far. And Ty getting an opportunity to spend some time with Brandon, it certainly helps from more of a technical standpoint than anything else. It’s certainly beneficial for him to learn from a player of Brandon’s caliber.”
The running back position in the Packers’ offense is more than just carrying and catching the ball. Coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t want to change running backs on third down -- that would slow down the no-huddle offense -- so that player must be able to protect Aaron Rodgers when defensive coordinators blitz as they often do on third down.
Montgomery’s ability to keep Rodgers upright was one of the biggest questions when he made the position switch midway through last season.
Given that Montgomery, who is going into his third NFL season, is the veteran in the running-back room to go along with the three backs the Packers drafted this season, it makes sense to have someone like Jackson around.
Running-backs coach Ben Sirmans said he told Jackson to “make sure he explains to Ty how important [pass blocking] is.”
“When he’s working with Ty, and he’s able to express to him where he came from and how he got better at certain things, it kind of reinforces what I’m teaching Ty,” Sirmans said. “Because obviously I never played in the NFL. But now it also gives him that aspect of a guy that has done it and done it at a very good rate of success with it.”
It looks like Jackson still could do it even though he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since his last season with the Cleveland Browns in 2012.
“I know when he walked into the training room, [team physician Dr.] Pat McKenzie wanted to give him a physical; he thought he came back to play,” McCarthy said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him [in coaching], but to get in there and have hands-on work with the young running backs, it’s been a great benefit.”