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What the Detroit Lions are getting in RB Jamaal Williams

Adding a quality player from a division rival is always good business.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are adding running back Jamaal Williams to their backfield on a reported 2-year deal.

Spending the first four years in Green Bay operating as a No. 2 back for the Packers and working in tandem with Aaron Jones, Williams proved to be the perfect complement back. Talented enough to spot start and carry the load (he has started 20 of his 60 NFL games played), Williams is a very valuable option as he is incredibly reliable as a runner, pass catcher, and pass blocker. Williams isn’t a game-altering back like D’Andre Swift—he only has two 100+ yards rushing games—but his ability to consistently produce in multiple areas on the field is a huge asset.

During his four years in the NFL, Williams averaged 155.5 touches for 736.5 total yards (496.25 rushing and 240.25 receiving) and 4.5 touchdowns per season. Remarkably, Williams has yet to fumble, despite 622 total touches in the NFL.

Additionally, at just 26 years old (next month), Williams still has not hit his developmental ceiling. As a rookie, Williams averaged 3.6 yards per carry, improved that number to 3.8 YPC in his second year, bumped that up to 4.29 YPC in year three, and 4.24 YPC last season. His overall grades from Pro Football Focus also showed consistent growth, increasing from 61.9 as a rookie, to 67.5, to 74.9, and 76.9 last season.

In Detroit, Swift is the clear starter, but Williams is firmly in the mix for RB2 duties and could be considered the early leader for the role. He’ll be competing for snaps with Kerryon Johnson, who Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley recently called “a complete back” in an exclusive interview with POD.

While all three backs are above-average receivers and pass blockers, Williams’ game is focused more on getting north-south as quickly as possible as a runner. Because he is not as shifty as the Lions’ two returning backs, Williams has relied on the patience and power elements in his skill set to create opportunities for yards after contact.



Williams’ power-based running style was a missing element in the Lions backfield, but it’s his ability to pass protect will get him plenty of opportunities to see the field in Detroit.

“You can be one of the most talented runners out there, you can be the most talented route runner out there, but if you can’t block, you can’t play for me. Point blank. Period,” Staley said.

Williams checks this box as well:

Williams is everything the Lions want in a complement back. Consistency, reliability, power, pass-catching, pass protection, low wear and tear on body, capable spot starter, high energy, and positive locker room presence. A two-year deal also gives the Lions three backs with contracts expiring in different years—Johnson in 2021, Williams 2022, Swift 2023—which will help with cap management and roster stability.

This is a home run addition for an offense that plans on relying heavily on their backs.

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