One day after Alvin Kamara’s positive COVID-19 test was confirmed, it was reported that the rest of the New Orleans Saints running back room would also be unavailable for Sunday’s matchup in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. This situation should sound familiar to Saints fans as it is the same situation that took place with the Denver Broncos, leading to practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton playing quarterback in the Week 12 matchup.
The entire Saints RB room won’t be available tomorrow bc of close contact to Alvin Kamara. Latavius Murry, Burton, Washington, RB coach all out tomorrow @NFLonFOX. They are moving Ty Montgomery to RB and calling up practice squad RB— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 2, 2021
With the four running backs out on Sunday, close contact screening will only affect Murray, Burton, and Washington’s availability for the Wild Card matchup if any of them test positive. Assuming the Saints play that weekend. Otherwise, they will only be out for five days and would be able to return to practice next week.
With the backs out on Sunday, the Saints will turn to versatile running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery and undrafted free agent Tony Jones, Jr.
Montgomery has primarily played a wide receiver role when on the field for the Saints. But head coach Sean Payton has referenced his ability to help in the run game.
“I think he’s a guy that understands the passing game well, and he’s also got a pretty good burst relative to handling the football in the running game. There are some things that – from a flexibility standpoint – he’s a unique player, and we’ll try to take advantage of those things.”
Even running backs coach Joel Thomas echoed the sentiment by referring to Montgomery as a “Swiss-army knife” in the offseason. There is a lot of confidence in Montgomery and a lot coming from Montgomery as well who chose to play in New Orleans as a free agent because of the opportunities the offense provides.
“Coach Sean Payton and his offense, it’s just sort of been, I guess you could say, notorious for putting guys in the best positions to be successful and being very creative on offense...”
Now, Montgomery will get his shot in the backfield and the Saints will discover what they have in another weapon ahead of the playoffs.
The former Green Bay Packer has a career total of 1,301 rushing yards, 225 carries, and seven rushing touchdowns. He only has one rush with the Saints so far this season that resulted in a loss of four yards. Certainly he’ll improve upon that against Carolina’s defense which allows 118.7 rushing yards per game.
Ty Montgomery won’t be the only player getting a shot in the Saints’ backfield. Along with the sure-to-be-found reps for Taysom Hill, former Notre Dame running back Tony Jones, Jr. also sees an opportunity on the horizon.
Jones will be elevated from the practice squad for this matchup. Jones caught some offseason comparisons to former Saints back Mark Ingram. He’s not the speediest guy on the field (4.68U 40 at the combine) but runs with a good burst, can fight through contact, and has some shifty moves to compliment his power run style.
At 5’11”, 224 pounds Jones ran for 857 yards and six touchdowns in his final season with the Fighting Irish in 2019. He did so while also piling up five 100+ yard games.
When Joel Thomas was asked about Jones this offseason he spoke highly of Jones’ intelligence and complimented his level of play, “I like what he brings to the table, as far as the intelligence. And you know he has played at a high level as far as football goes.”
Now, the Saints will lean on both Montgomery and Jones without Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Michael Burton, and Dwayne Washington. They will be tasked to help fill the roles in the backfield as well as some special teams reps. But it’s good news for the Saints that they have a former starter to fall back on and a rookie who had some great moments in camp. It’s far from the Broncos’ Kendall Hinton situation in that light.
The New Orleans Saints will also be without safeties D.J. Swearinger and C.J. Gardner-Johnson this week for Covid-related reasons. This Week 17 game is shaping up to be quite the challenge for the Saints who still have the NFC’s number one seed in sight.
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