This week’s review takes us to the running backs, which for the first time in a few years has some young players to be excited about, guys who can take some of the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers to carry the team. The departure of both Eddie Lacy and James Stark a year ago led to Ted Thompson taking not two, but three running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft, and two of them have shown to have a very bright future in the NFL. In addition, the Packers once again carried a pair of fullbacks for the duration of the season, and that will be an interesting battle to watch heading into the upcoming preseason.

Ty Montgomery:

2017 Stats: 8 games, 71 attempts, 273 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns; 23 receptions, 173 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

A year ago this time, much offseason hype was swirling around #88 and his effectiveness as a runner out of the backfield. He took defenses by surprise, averaging 5.9 yards per carry (YPC) and gave the Packers a legitimate rushing threat in a season where the backfield was decimated by injury. Fast forward a year and Montgomery got bit by the injury bug himself. Suffering through a rib injury midway through the season and later getting placed on injured reserve with a wrist injury, Montgomery’s YPC dropped more than two yards. While his pass-blocking improved, Montgomery seemed to lack the vision and agility last season that excited fans down the stretch in 2016. With a whole offseason of rest, Montgomery should be able to come back fully healthy in 2018 and serve a creative role in McCarthy’s offense as a switchblade running back/wide receiver that will keep defensive coordinators guessing.

Jamaal Williams:

2017 Stats: 16 games, 153 attempts, 556 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns; 25 receptions, 262 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

Contract Situation: Signed through 2020 season

For what it’s worth, it appears that Williams head into the 2018 season as the lead running back. After starting out slow in 2017, he stepped up in the second half of the season, giving the offense a reliable weapon as hard-nosed runner who fought tooth-and-nail for every yard. While his YPC doesn’t jump off the stat sheet, he’s a great running back to grind out the clock, keep opposing offenses off the field, and is respectable as a pass blocker. With Aaron Rodgers back at the helm, expect the Packers to rely heavily on Williams in an effort to keep the franchise quarterback off the ground. Williams should keep the hold on the starting job until either Montgomery or Aaron Jones can show vast improvement as a pass protector.

Aaron Jones:

2017 Stats: 12 games, 81 attempts, 448 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns; 9 receptions, 22 receiving yards

Contract Situation: Signed through 2020 season

The lightning to Williams’ thunder, Jones flashed sky-high potential a number of times over this past season. Whether you look at his debut against Chicago in Week 4, his gashing of the Saints’ defense for 131 yards on only 17 carries, or his game-winning touchdown run against Tampa Bay, in overtime, Jones looks like a heck of a steal in the 5th round of last years draft. While he slowed near the end of the season due to a pair of knee injuries, Packer fans absolutely have to be excited to see what Aaron Rodgers and the offense can do with this runner in the backfield. The only knock on Jones, outside of the knee injuries, is his poor pass protection. If he can refine his ability as a blocker over the season, he may very well push Williams for the starting gig. If not, he will still be a dynamite weapon who should still be utilized regularly on game days.

Devante Mays:

2017 Stats: 8 games, 4 attempts, 1 rushing yard; 3 receptions, 0 receiving yards

Contract Situation: Signed through 2020 season

Probably the toughest runner on the roster, even more so than Jamaal Williams, Mays never got a chance to truly showcase his skills outside of the preseason. With the success of the two rookies taken before him, he had a hard time getting a crack on the 46-man active roster most Sundays. When Mays did finally get his offensive debut in Week 11 against Baltimore, he fumbled not once, but twice on only three carries. While the seventh round draft choice has plenty of time to shed the notion of poor ball control, he will need to ball out this training camp in order to secure a job on the Packers roster heading into next season.

Aaron Ripkowski:

2017 Stats: 16 games, 5 carries, 13 rushing yards; 7 receptions, 39 receiving yards

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

Unlike the 2016 season, did not play much running back, sticking to his traditional fullback role as the Packers restocked the running back room with the aforementioned trio of rookies. Overall, his playing time was down from 2016, but the entire offense was out of sync without Rodgers and as mentioned before, he primarily as only a fullback this season. As one of the few fullbacks remaining across the NFL, Ripkowski is starting to become a respected player across the league, having been named as a Pro Bowl alternate the past two seasons. He might not have a name that Packers’ fans can yell across the stadium, but he’s got one heck of a beard and a tough, hard-working attitude that should help him find a way to grind it out on this roster for years to come.

Joe Kerridge:

2017 Stats: 4 games played, 1 reception, 3 receiving yards

Contract Situation: Exclusive Right Free Agent this March

Primarily a special teams contributor, Kerridge has seen virtually no time in the offense over his two seasons with Green Bay. Despite this, the former Michigan Wolverine is a stalwart on Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook’s units and will almost undoubtedly be brought back for cheap to compete in camp the third season in a row. Kerridge reportedly caught everything thrown his way last camp, showed tenacity as a lead blocker, and seemed like a lock to make the roster straight out of camp. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury, was released during finals cuts, and brought back to the practice squad.  If he keeps up that level of play, he could potentially beat out Ripkowski for the fullback position, although chances are he sticks around on the backend of the roster/practice squad for special teams purposes.

Position of Need: Low

As mentioned before, the Packers revitalized their backfield in the 2017 NFL Draft by taking a trio of talented backs, all with unique skillsets. It appears that they already hit on two of them, and the third will get another chance to shine this upcoming preseason. Factor in the return of Ty Montgomery, and it appears the Packers are set at this position for the time being. If Green Bay were to add a running back, I’d expect no more than a late Day 3 draft pick, or possibly an inexpensive veteran back with the ability to pass block. As far as the fullback position goes, I don’t see the Packers adding anyone unless Kerridge walks, then they may possibly find an undrafted free agent who they can play on special teams.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.

All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

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