Next up, Jamaal Williams: Packers keep going through running backs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jamaal Williams had Ty Montgomery on his mind when he barreled through the right side of the line of scrimmage in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears.

The Green Bay Packers rookie running back had watched Montgomery earlier in the game slip through untouched for a 37-yard touchdown run.

Here was Williams -- who replaced Montgomery (who left with a rib injury) after starter Aaron Jones exited with a knee injury -- with his number called on a fourth-and-1 play from the Bears’ 49-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

“You really want to get the breakout runs [like] how Ty did on his touchdown,” Williams said.

No wonder Williams stomped his feet and jumped up and down after he busted through for a 4-yard gain. He wasn’t celebrating a much-needed first down in what at the time was a one-possession game; he was frustrated that he didn’t take it all the way. If not for a one-armed tackle by linebacker Christian Jones, Williams might have been gone.

“Honestly, I should have kept my head on and scored,” Williams said with a sigh. “I got through and saw all that [open field] and I was like, ‘Oh, Lord.’”

Maybe next time.

And based on the injury to Jones, who will miss three to six weeks because of an MCL sprain, it looks like Williams’ next time could come Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Montgomery has a chance to play this week, but considering it's his second rib injury in six weeks, Montgomery's reps likely will be limited if he plays at all. The only other halfback on the roster is Devante Mays, who was inactive against the Bears.

It was for situations like this that Packers general manager Ted Thompson picked three running backs in the most recent draft -- Williams in the fourth round, Jones in the fifth and Mays in the seventh.

Early on, it looked as if Williams had the best chance to push Montgomery for the starting job. Williams settled into the No. 2 spot to start the season, before sustaining a knee injury in the same game that Montgomery first hurt his ribs (Week 4 against the Bears). That put Jones on the field for the first time; and until his knee injury on Sunday, Jones had been the Packers’ most productive back, with a pair of 100-yard games and a team-high 370 yards rushing on the season.

“You could see in training camp he clearly was ahead of the other two rookies,” McCarthy said of Williams. “And I think when the season started, he was trying to do it right. He was trying to do things right. The ball carriage was different for him. He was thinking too much.

“And frankly, the opportunity taken away from him with Aaron stepping in there, his hunger never changed.”

Williams’ numbers against the Bears weren’t flashy -- 20 carries for 67 yards (a 3.4-yard average), with a long run of 7 yards -- but his production was important during a grind-it-out type of game.

“The way he came in there and ran the football at the time where you needed to run it,” McCarthy said. “He had phone booth-style runs, and he delivered. I was very impressed with the way he played.”

“Phone booth-style runs" are the kind that happen in tight spaces, and Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said the coaches credited Williams with seven broken tackles. ESPN Stats & Information data had him gaining 46 of his 67 yards after first contact.

“Just his play style in general, I thought he did a really good job of running the football,” Bennett said. “Tough, physical, ran hard, finished moving forward and he broke tackles.”

While Jones and Montgomery were handling most of the running back reps this season, Williams found a role on special teams. In fact, he was awarded a game ball against the Bears for his efforts on special teams.

Those special-teams duties, however, might be on hold if he’s the starting running back against the Ravens, who rank third in the league in passing defense but are 28th against the run.

“Every week, I still go in and prepare like I am going to be the starting running back,” Williams said. “You need to know all the runs and all the plays, because you never know when your time’s going to come."