Second half free agency signings are not generally seen as very impactful moves that could change the offense, but could Ty Montgomery be an exception to that rule? With the departure of Mark Ingram (and injury issues with Alvin Kamara) the New Orleans Saints screen game has taken a dip. What about things like the Texas Concept that we used to see Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles run regularly out of the backfield?
These might be some of the things head coach Sean Payton saw in Montgomery who is a “young” veteran at 27 years old having played in the league 6 years already with Green Bay, Baltimore (mid-season trade in 2018) and most recently with the New York Jets.
As a runner, Montgomery has average 4.6 yards per carry on only 224 attempts for 1035 yards with 7 touchdowns. Considering the length of his career it’s easy to see this isn’t the primary role he has filled during his NFL tenure (also, #88?), but it does show that there are plays where he can be successful in that capacity. For example, draw plays used to provide a quick explosive outlet for players like Sproles on third downs.
To be successful in those quick strike plays (including screens which we’ll talk about in a moment) Montgomery will need to be good in one area Payton is a stickler for: Pass protection. Saints fans will be happy to hear that Montgomery is a willing blocker who was tasked with defending the NFL’s favorite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers while in Green Bay. The only issue I was able to find was that too often he would lead with his shoulder into blocks instead of squaring up and engaging. Nevertheless, he was able to execute those blocks effectively.
Being an effective blocker is a key factor in contributing as a screen player as thats part of the New Orleans offensive that has missing missing as of late. Pierre Thomas made a career out of dominating the screen game and being an effective blocker was a prerequisite to that success according to Payton, “It’s hard to be a receiving screen back if you’re rarely in protection. So, Pierre, when we saw the heavy blitz teams, and there’s countless hours spent on the third-down blitz protection, he had it. That lends itself to be someone who has a real good feel for it.”
In 205 screen attempts Thomas reeled in 186 of them for 1,479 yards per Nick Underhill while Sproles and Bush contributed 106 and 138 respectively. Players like C.J. Spiller and Travaris Cadet tried to fill this role with less success. Now, that’s not to say the lack of success from other players was due to poor blocking ability, but being versatile (and thus not one dimensional) made it much more difficult for defenses to key in on how players like Thomas were used play in and play out. Montgomery has shown that same type of potential.
What makes Montgomery unique is that even though he spends more time in the backfield than his number would indicate he is a quite capable receiver. Another interesting tidbit is that teams like the Packers and Jets weren’t afraid to use him at the line of scrimmage like a Flex tight end or a Split End receiver. His 6 foot, 215 pound frame could be difficult for some defensive backs to match up against.
Most runningbacks struggle to run effective routes, and its understandable as to why, its simply not something they’re asking to do. Yet, Montgomery is able to operate as a traditional runningback as well as catch swing passes out of the backfield, run angle routes into the middle of the field and even line up in the slot to be used in crossing patterns. While he doesn’t possess a full route tree like a true receiver it’s enough make him a short yardage threat against most defensive backs and linebackers in the league. Essentially, he is a mismatch player.
Montgomery is able to make this work by having amazing foot quickness and short area agility. What he lacks in play strength and pure speed/burst he makes up for with the ability to make players miss in space by taking great angles and beating them to spots. As you’ll see in the below film study operating in space allows Montgomery to use that high agility to make players miss and get yards after the catch.
This signing seems to mesh well with bringing in players like Jared Cook (2019) and Emmanuel Sanders (2020). New Orleans is re-styling it’s offense around Brees to give a variety of weapons that can dominate in the short to intermediate areas of the field while also providing yards after catch ability that has been absent from guys like Austin Carr, Lil Jordan Humphrey, Keith Kirkwood and others.
While there’s no guarantee at this point Montgomery will even make the roster the vision for how Payton could deploy him is clear. Now all he has to do is show that he can produce for the Saints like he has for the Jets and Packers. Payton has typically always kept at least one player like this in the runningback room. Did I mention he operates as a kick returner as well? With 431 career special teams snaps notched you can expect to see a lot of Ty in training camp here soon.
For a more in depth look at how Montgomery can add to the Saints’ offense take a look at this film study: