WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Ty Montgomery was on the practice field for the Patriots on Wednesday, which is great news for a New England offense that hasn’t had much of it this summer.
But what does his potential return mean for other running backs on the Patriots roster?
Montgomery, easily New England’s busiest and best passing-down back during training camp, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury during the preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. Many penciled him in for short-term injured reserve — if not a longer-term absence — but in the weeks since, Bill Belichick indicated that Montgomery’s injury might not be that severe.
And while it remains to be seen whether Montgomery will suit up in Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins, it’s looking more and more like he’ll be active for Week 1.
Consequently, it’s hard to envision rookie running back Pierre Strong having much of a role on Sunday beyond potential participation on special teams. In fact, it’s more likely that the fourth-round pick, who didn’t stand out in any way during training camp, will be a healthy scratch.
The same can be said for practice-squad backs J.J. Taylor and Kevin Harris. If Montgomery ends up sitting, the Patriots could elevate Taylor from the practice squad as either an insurance option or for a legitimate passing-down role. He currently deserves that opportunity over Strong. Harris, a rookie, seems destined to red-shirt this season after an underwhelming preseason.
Should Montgomery play, Taylor and Harris almost certainly will stay on the practice squad.
As for feature backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, a Montgomery return probably would result in them more or less splitting carries, though Stevenson did make strides as a third-down back during the offseason. He could see increased snaps in that role this weekend if Montgomery is limited due to his injury recovery.
Ultimately, little of this will matter if the Patriots offensive line can’t get back on track after its rough camp. For what it’s worth, Stevenson on Wednesday seemed legitimately optimistic about the progress New England’s running game has made over the last few weeks.