I’m not sure, but I think last Thursday night against the Chicago Bears, we may have seen the new way the Green Bay Packers are going to have to do business.
In that game, we saw a plethora of “Big 5” - that’s five wide receivers in an empty shotgun formation. In many cases the Packers had their five wide receivers on the field and made one of them, Ty Montgomery, a running back.
As a result, the Packers threw the football 56 times, completed a club record 39 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. This is not what they intended to do when the “best-laid plans” were made for this offense coming into 2016, but it is what they had to do to beat the Bears and it may be their “mo” for the rest of the season.
Coming into this season, the Packers had a thousand-yard rusher ready to go in Eddie Lacy, a stretch-the- seam tight end in Jared Cook and the return of All-Pro wide receiver Jordy Nelson from a season ending knee injury suffered in the 2015 preseason.
They expected to do business a certain way, and 56 passes in a game was not what they intended to do.
But in the NFL the best-laid plans are almost always altered. The great coaching staffs and teams have the versatility to come off the “plan” and jump into something they can do, as constituted, to be successful.
Given the injuries at running back and tight end ,Green Bay has to find a different way, and that’s what they did against the Bears.
Montgomery is the “Swiss Army knife” of this offense. He had been groomed this fall to be the change-of-pace back behind Lacy and the injured James Starks.
What he became against the Bears was the club’s “feature” back. Montgomery caught 10 passes on 13 targets for 66 yards at receiver. From the backfield, he rushed the ball 9 times for 60 yards including a 30-yard run ,and for the first time this season started to look like a running back.
The more they handed him the ball, the better he “read” the play and make his cuts off what his eyes saw as the play developed.
Montgomery is a wide receiver by trade, he has those skills, but he has the body of a running back - 6’-0” 216 pounds.
What Ty becomes is a matchup nightmare for the defense. Most defenses commit a linebacker or safety to a running back in the passing game.
With Montgomery behind Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have both a running back and an extra wide receiver. He will outrun linebackers and safeties in the passing game.
Some have complained, “Jordy Nelson is a mere shell of his former All-Pro self!”
No one should be surprised. An athlete coming back from a torn ACL knee injury usually takes 18 months before he or she is back to being what they were before the injury.
Jordy did the job rehabbing. Now the comeback continues through competition, and all I can say to those who are frustrated with his production — chill out!
This is all about the process, and if you think Jordy should be Jordy by now — you’ve obviously never had his injury and tried to come back to an All-Pro level in the National Football League. Jordy will be Jordy in due time. Trust me on that.
However, for now the best receiver the Packers have had this season is Randall Cobb.
According to Pro Football Focus, Randall was among the league leaders in one dubious category last year - dropped passes. Unofficially Cobb was charged with double digit dropped passes.
This season he has not dropped a pass yet while leading the Packers with 39 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns. He is back to his role as one of the best slot receivers in the game, tough in traffic, open over the middle and clutch.
He leads the NFL in third down receptions with 15 for 182 yards and a touchdown. He has made 23 first downs via pass receptions, and four more running the football.
Randall Cobb is back to being Randall Cobb!
Davante Adams emerged in the Bears game with 13 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. It is all about confidence with Davante and his quarterback knows it.
If they get him into the mix early and he makes a couple of catches, chances are he is going to have a strong game.
Against Chicago Adams caught six passes for 56 yards in the first half. He made seven receptions for 76 yards in the second half. The 13 catches against Chicago almost equaled his total for the first five games of the season (15).
They are trying to get Jeff Janis into the mix: four catches 23 yards in the past two games. Rookie Trevor Davis has yet to get into that mix and Jared Abbrederis has been placed on the IR list.
This week in Atlanta, keep an eye on a young receiver who impressed in the pre season but did not make the squad coming out of training camp.
The Packers elevated Geronimo Allison from the practice squad this week, and I believe he will make a quick impact.
Allison impressed everyone in the pre season including the QB. He caught six passes for 119 yards and many felt he was one of the Packers’ top five receivers. But drafted receivers on the depth chart surrounded him, so his road to the regular season roster had to wind through waivers, practice squad and finally elevation to the team.
This kid out of Illinois is big, runs very good routes and plays faster than he times. Keep an eye on No. 81.
On the corner
Tough times make for tough people. The Packers injury problems at cornerback - their top three (Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins) are out due to injuries - make for tough times.
LaDarius Gunter, a second year former free agent, has emerged in the lead role. Gunter has had good and not-so-good games, but what I like about him - after getting “torched” by the Cowboys, he came back four nights later and held Chicago’s top receiver Alshon Jeffrey to three catches for 33 yards.
The corner is a lonely place and requires a competitor to have the mental discipline to forget about the last play or last game and focus on the next play. Many have the speed to play corner; few have the make-up to man the position in the NFL.
Gunter is tough, he has prototypical size for the corner at 6’-2” 200 pounds, and I believe he has the mental makeup to be a very good player for the Packers.
When you play “lead” at corner, the hits just keep on coming! This week, Gunter draws Atlanta’s best Julio Jones, who also happens to be the top receiver in the NFL today.