Late last week, the New England Patriots shared a collection of photos from offseason workouts outside Gillette Stadium.
A handful showed quarterback Mac Jones getting reacquainted with his teammates ahead of what he hopes will be a resurgent third season in Foxboro. Others featured veteran newcomers (tight end Mike Gesicki, running back James Robinson) and members of the Patriots’ rookie class (wide receiver Demario Douglas, kicker Chad Ryland, punter Bryce Baringer, tight end Johnny Lumpkin).
And three of the 33 photos spotlighted a player some New England fans likely forgot was still on the roster: Ty Montgomery.
Montgomery, a veteran journeyman who’s played both wide receiver and running back in his NFL career, began last season as New England’s top third-down back and looked poised to play a prominent role in the Patriots’ offense. But after scoring a touchdown in Week 1, he suffered an injury that proved to be season-ending. He was placed on injured reserve and was limited to side-field conditioning work for the remainder of his first Patriots campaign.
Montgomery’s injury, coupled with the string of assorted ailments that sidelined Damien Harris for six games and parts of three others, forced lead back Rhamondre Stevenson to shoulder a far-too-heavy workload that ultimately wore him down. Stevenson was on the field for 66.4% of New England’s offensive snaps last season; no other Patriots back since 2012 has even topped 55%. He played more than 75% of snaps in seven of 17 games and exceeded 90% three times.
Stevenson was largely excellent despite that, finishing with the fourth-most yards from scrimmage of any Bill Belichick-era Patriot, but he needs a more reliable supporting cast this season.
The Patriots let Harris walk after the season and replaced him with Robinson, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2020 but struggled last season in his return from a torn Achilles. They’ll also be hoping Pierre Strong and/or Kevin Harris can carve out more prominent roles after neither 2022 draft pick cracked the regular running back rotation as a rookie.
“I think he has a great chance to be the third-down back and take some of the load off Rhamondre, so (Stevenson) can be fresh when we really need him on first and second down carrying the ball as the featured guy,” Fears, who retired last offseason but continued to spend time around the team, said on the “6 Rings and Football Things Podcast,” as transcribed by ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
“We need some help for Rhamondre, and I think Ty is looking really good right now. He’s healthy.”
More details about Montgomery’s status will be revealed when the Patriots hold their first open organized team activities practice this Thursday, but the 30-year-old looked active in the team-released photos, which showed him running routes and catching passes. In one, he appeared to be working with receivers coach Troy Brown, raising the question of whether New England plans to have him pull double duty at wideout and running back. He saw reps at both spots last spring and summer before eventually settling into a backfield role.
Outside of Montgomery, the Patriots’ running back room entering OTAs consists of Stevenson, Robinson, Strong, Harris and J.J. Taylor. Offseason pickup JuJu Smith-Schuster headlines a receiving corps that also features DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, Tre Nixon and 2023 sixth-round picks Kayshon Boutte and Douglas.