Packers' running game sputters in preseason opener

Ty Montgomery didn't get a chance to get going in the Packers' preseason opener. Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy's initial assessment after Thursday’s preseason opener said it all.

"We're off to a start," he said.

No, there’s not a missing word between "a" and "start."

The Green Bay Packers coach was offering a general comment in his opening statement, but it could have been more directly applicable to the running game.

In the Packers' pass-happy 24-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field, McCarthy might have a difficult time evaluating his running game:

  • The starter, Ty Montgomery, carried the ball three times for zero yards (minus-3, plus-5 and minus-2), and fumbled on the 5-yard gain.

  • The top rookie, fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams, carried four times for 14 yards with a long gain of 5.

  • The fifth-round pick, Aaron Jones, earned two carries for zero yards.

  • The seventh-round pick, Devante Mays, never touched the ball.

That's a combined nine carries for 14 yards (with a long gain of 5) for the running backs most likely to be on the roster for the regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Perhaps minimal work from the running backs should have been expected in a game coached by McCarthy and Philadelphia's Doug Pederson, a former Packers backup quarterback. But at some point, McCarthy will have to figure out what he can get from his backfield.

While Montgomery's fumble was the biggest pock mark of the night for the running game, it's not as if there were many opportunities to make people forget about it.

"I thought he had some tough looks," McCarthy said of Montgomery. "Obviously, he has got to hold on to the football, but the goal is just to play two series, which he did. He didn't get a lot of work. We didn't do a lot with him either, too. Didn't have a lot of opportunities."

After making a midseason switch from receiver to running back last year, Montgomery will likely get more opportunities to show what a full offseason of work at his current position has done for him. However, the rookies also need the work.

"I just feel like I need more time playing and then I'll get used to it," Williams said. "But I really felt like my second or third run, a linebacker just got under me and took me down, and then the next run I got my shoulder lower and you can break tackles like that. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can.

"It was good to just get in there and try to almost get a flow going. But I really feel like I'm a grinder type, a workhorse type of a running back. But I feel like with the carries I had, I learned so much about pad level, keeping your eyes downfield and look for the cuts, and when you cut you keep them tight."

The starting offensive line played only the first quarter, so any evaluation beyond that should be marked with an asterisk.

"We're not going to figure it all out in 10 reps," center Corey Linsley said. "And I think the coaches, they did an awesome job adjusting to it, and you saw us build as we went on so we can all learn off that.

"With Ty in his second season as a full-time running back, and we like what we've seen out of the younger guys, too, for sure I think [the running game will improve]. I'm telling you, when we get in that film room and we watch what little things we did wrong here and there, it's going to be a good learning experience."