Questions ahead for McCarthy, offense

Montgomery to remain at running back
By: 

The Associated Press


Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers will work next season without Tom Clements, the associate head coach for offense, who is leaving the team to pursue other interests.

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who played in the NFC championship game with broken ribs, was one of several Packers who dealt with significant injuries this season. The offense next year will be without Tom Clements, the associate head coach for offense, who coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday was leaving to pursue other interests.

Ty Montgomery is staying at running back with the Green Bay Packers, and he’s getting a jersey number more appropriate for the position.

Montgomery, who wore No. 88 this season, will spend the offseason preparing to be in the backfield full-time, coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday.

The switch epitomized the scrambling that the Packers had to do all season to cope with a litany of injuries. While Montgomery played running back in high school, he played receiver in college at Stanford.

“He’s a running back, so he wants to change his number and that’s the way we’re going,” McCarthy said at Lambeau Field, where he held his season-ending news conference.

The Packers always had designs on using Montgomery in some all-purpose role when he was drafted in 2015, similar to how they use receiver Randall Cobb at times. Injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks necessitated a dramatic change.

“Now by no means did I think Ty Montgomery was going to be playing halfback and be there by himself against the Chicago Bears,” McCarthy said.

Montgomery had a breakout game in Week 15 in Chicago with 162 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

The return to running back remains a work in progress, especially in pass protection.

“Obviously the ability to flex out and play receiver and those types of things will be his secondary responsibility. But he’ll be on the depth chart as a running back,” McCarthy said.

Lacy is due to enter free agency, though the season-ending ankle injury he had in October could allow the Packers to bring him back on more team-friendly terms. Montgomery’s all-purpose skills could make for an effective complement to Lacy’s physical running style.

Montgomery led the team in rushing with 457 yards and three scores, while quarterback Aaron Rodgers was next with 369 yards and a team-high four rushing touchdowns.

Lacy had 360 yards and no scores, averaging 5.1 yards in his 71 carries in five games. After being called out for conditioning last year, Lacy seemed to be getting up to speed when he got hurt in Week 6.

“I’d love to see Eddie back. Eddie is going through a medical situation. I clearly understand his contract situation,” McCarthy said. “So that’s really something we’ll continue to work through.”

There was one change in place, four days after the season ended with the 44-21 loss to Atlanta in the NFC title game: Tom Clements, the associate head coach for offense, was leaving to pursue other interests.

A veteran on the staff since McCarthy arrived in Green Bay 11 seasons ago, Clements had been instrumental in the development of Rodgers. Clements had been given play-calling duties at the start of the 2015 season, before McCarthy took it back in the middle of that season with the offense struggling.

“I’d like to take this moment to thank Tom for an incredible 11 years here, and what we were able to accomplish during that time,” McCarthy said.

There was no indication any other changes were in the works. McCarthy offered a ringing endorsement for his assistants, including how defensive coordinator Dom Capers oversaw his injury-battered unit.

“We’ll have evaluations for each and every (assistant) and then we have contracts to do and so forth. This is no time for drama,” McCarthy said. “Dom Capers is an outstanding football coach. That doesn’t change. He had a tough challenge in front of him this year.”

Clay Matthews, the team’s best pass rusher, coped with hamstring or shoulder injuries all season. The best cornerback, veteran Sam Shields, still hasn’t cleared the concussion protocol after getting hurt in the season opener in Jacksonville.

Shields caught up with the team in Atlanta at the NFC title game.

“Having a chance to visit with Sam in Atlanta briefly, he needs to get healthy for himself and his family, that’s the primary focus,” McCarthy said.

Shields’ injury forced second-year players Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter to assume more responsibilities. Randall and Rollins also dealt with various injuries all seasons, likely stunting development.

Randall and Rollins plan to work out together in the offseason, McCarthy said.