GREEN BAY — Looking to provide some relief for their depleted backfield, the Packers turned back to a familiar page of their playbook Sunday against Dallas.
The “Big Five” package that had been an innovative offensive look over Mike McCarthy’s first 10 years in Green Bay returned amidst a flurry of personnel changes early against the Cowboys.
The formation, consisting of five receivers, first gained popularity in 2007 and was prevalent throughout the offense’s record-setting campaign in 2011.
With Eddie Lacy battling an ankle injury, the Packers added a new wrinkle to the look with Ty Montgomery lining up in the backfield at times against Dallas.
The second-year receiver, who had zero catches on 17 offensive snaps in his first four games combined, responded with a career-high 10 catches for 98 yards to spark the offense.
While there are areas the Packers admit they need to improve on offense, they were pleased with the overall production of the package considering the injuries the team was facing.
“Going no-huddle with him back there was definitely one of the positives of our offensive performance,” said McCarthy earlier this week.
“I thought he did some good things coming back out of the backfield. To do the whole thing, that’s what we’re working for because anytime you can create more flexibility for a playmaker … it will definitely help us.”
The Packers may keep deploying the package and their fast-paced switch-ups Thursday against the Chicago Bears with James Starks (knee) and Lacy already ruled out.
Green Bay has a healthy running back after acquiring Knile Davis from Kansas City on Tuesday, but his contributions likely will be guided by how quickly he can grasp the playbook.
The Packers entered the season with only Lacy, Starks and fullback Aaron Ripkowski on the 53-man roster but have been teaching Montgomery certain aspects of the position.
The idea of getting Montgomery in the open field is enticing. On special teams, he already has three kickoff returns of more than 40 yards on only 11 career regular-season attempts.
Since the beginning, the Packers have felt Montgomery has many similarities to Randall Cobb, who has been utilized in a similar fashion in the past.
Under the circumstances on Sunday, Montgomery was given a chance to show what he can do. Outside of a late fumble, there was plenty to like from the Packers’ perspective.
“It gives us a sure-handed guy out of the backfield and also a guy who’s a good runner,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He hasn’t had a chance to get multiple carries going, but he can do some things as a running back and I think there’s a reason we like him back there.
“We just have to keep working with him on what he’s really good at, and he’s really good at number of routes out of the backfield. I think that’s something we’ll look to use even more going forward.”
The package makes sense for the Packers, who are deep at the position after carrying seven receivers on their 53-man roster into the season. Furthermore, no two receivers are alike.
Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis and rookie Trevor Davis all present different threats to a defense while complementing Jordy Nelson, Cobb and Davante Adams.
Green Bay went to the formation to help get all seven of its receivers on the field during the opening series, a nine-play, 56-yard drive that ended in a 37-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
“It’s just opportunities for guys to get on the field,” Nelson said. “Obviously it’s the situation we’re in with running back, there might be more of it. It’s just one of those things that guys have shown they can make plays, so they’re earning the right to be on the field. They just have to continue to show they can do that and everything will go from there.”
The Packers have shuffled their personnel on the opening drive in each of the past two games to keep the defense on its heels and utilize the depth of their skill positions.
The plan worked to perfection two weeks ago against the New York Giants when the offense went 16 plays and 75 yards in nearly 9 minutes before Rodgers found Nelson for a 2-yard touchdown.
The plan called for a barrage of spread formations, full-house backfields, and two-tight-end looks. It seemed to work against Dallas before turnovers started to become an issue.
Now, the Packers want to get back to what they did well against the Giants and maximize their personnel, especially with the current situation at running back.
“We’re able to use more of our guys in different spots and try to tailor some things to some of those guys and give them opportunities,” Rodgers said.
“When you’re staying in one personnel group for extended periods of time, it limits that kind of stuff. Now the stuff it does do is it makes it difficult on the defense to sub and stresses them with their conditioning. But we’re going to this new format to try and get some new people involved.”