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Detroit Lions Week 13 snap count observations: Jameson Williams gets feet wet in NFL debut

A closer look at the snap counts from the Detroit Lions' 40-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a closer look at the Detroit Lions’ snap counts from their blowout Week 13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, along with some thoughts on what it may mean going forward.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 74 (97% of offensive snaps)
Nate Sudfeld: 2 (3%)

With the Lions up 40-14, Sudfeld found the field for victory formation.

Running backs

D’Andre Swift: 39 (51%)
Jamaal Williams: 23 (30%)
Justin Jackson: 16 (21%) — 13 special teams snaps (50%)
Jason Cabinda: 7 (9%) — 7 (27%)

Welcome back, D’Andre Swift. After slowly being worked back in while managing shoulder and ankle injuries, the Lions finally decided to lean on their talented back. He rewarded them with 62 yards on the ground, 49 yards through the air, and a touchdown. He’s not fully back to Week 1 form yet, but this is as close as he has been in months.

Meanwhile, Williams continues to smash the football into the end zone and now has 14 rushing touchdowns on the season—one more than he had in his entire five-year career entering 2022. He now has the second most rushing touchdowns in Lions history and is just three away from breaking Barry Sanders’ franchise record (set in 1991).

Tight ends

Brock Wright: 35 (46%) — 12 (46%)
Shane Zylstra: 23 (30%) — 5 (19%)
James Mitchell: 22 (29%) — 12 (46%)

Wright’s snap count took a dip this week, while both Zylstra and Mitchell saw significant bumps. Each brings a different skill set to the table, and it’s possible this change was just situational game planning, but it’s fair to speculate that the Lions may be giving their tight ends an opportunity to separate themselves.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 66 (87%)
DJ Chark: 64 (84%)
Josh Reynolds: 60 (79%)
Kalif Raymond: 13 (17%) — 3 (12%)
Jameson Williams: 8 (11%)

The Lions finally have their starting wide receiver group healthy and boy did it show. As Jeremy Reisman noted, Goff was “19-of-22, 231 yards, 2 TDs, 140.7 passer rating” when targeting this trio.

In most weeks, this would be the dominating headline, but with the Lions activating first-round pick Jameson Williams, his involvement has stolen the show. As expected, he is following the same acclimation process as pretty much every Lions player returning from injury. He got used to the pre-game routine, then got his feet wet on a few offensive snaps, with a larger role on the horizon.

“Today was just about getting his legs under him,” coach Dan Campbell said of Williams’ NFL debut. “Go through pre-game, be on the sideline, you got your pads on, run into a huddle, run out, line up, wrestle with someone one-on-one a little bit. It was really that, just to get him somewhat acclimated, very much like we did (with) Jerry Jacobs in Dallas. That’s really what this was. He’s going to get a little bit more next week. This was just (a) primer for him. Let’s just get his legs under him so he can get a feel. It’s his first NFL game, so we’re good.”

On Williams’ eight snaps, the Lions ran the ball on six of them and targeted him just once in the passing game, but the pass landed incomplete (short) as Williams was squeezed out on the sideline.

“Had the one shot on the go-ball,” Goff said of Williams. “Wish I could connect it, but it was good to get a rep with him there, but yeah, it’ll progress from here. It’ll (be) more probably next week. How much, I don’t know, but make sure he’s dialed in on his packages, and he’ll do a great job. He’s, as you said, a thoroughbred, a guy that, as good as we are at receiver right now and the health we have, can add to that group and make it even more explosive.”

Goff made sure to caution about overhyping Williams, as most fans are salivating at the possibility of what he brings to the already explosive offense, but even he couldn’t help but show his excitement.

“I think as a rookie, he’s going to want to come out and light the world on fire as we all do want him to,” Goff continued. “But he’s going to have his plays that he’s going to know and he’s going to be good at, and we’re going to roll with him on those, and whatever that may be. I just don’t want you guys to set expectations so high. He’s a rookie. He hasn’t had any reps, and as time goes, he will be that guy. He really will be. He’s got everything it takes to be that guy, that premier threat in this league, and I’m excited to watch him grow into that.”

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker: 76 (100%)
Penei Sewell: 76 (100%) — 8 (31%)
Dan Skipper: 4 (5%) — 8 (31%)
Matt Nelson: 0 (0%) — 8 (31%)

While Skipper didn’t get the start at right guard, he did find the field in six offensive linemen sets, a role typically occupied by Nelson.

Guards/centers

Frank Ragnow: 76 (100%)
Jonah Jackson: 76 (100%) — 8 (31%)
Kayode Awosika: 76 (100%) — 8 (31%)
Ross Pierschbacher: 0 (0%) — 8 (31%)

Awosika got the start in place of Evan Brown, as the Lions continue to cycle through their options.

Defense

DT:

Alim McNeill: 40 (71%)
Isaiah Buggs: 34 (61%)
Benito Jones: 20 (36%) — 2 (8%)

Despite getting injured, Buggs still managed to register over 60% of the team's defensive snaps, illustrating how valuable he is for their front. McNeill’s 71% is just silly for a man his size.

EDGE:

Aidan Hutchinson: 48 (86%) — 2 (8%)
John Cominsky: 43 (77%) — 2 (8%)
Josh Paschal: 15 (27%)
Austin Bryant: 15 (27%) — 2 (8%)
James Houston: 12 (21%) — 16 (62%)

Cominsky held down the starting closed end role as Paschal was re-acclimating after missing a month’s worth of games due to injury. Cominsky continues to be significantly impactful—he is up for this week’s game ball—so it’ll be interesting to see how the Lions split the pair’s snaps moving forward. This is a good problem to have.

Speaking of injury replacements, most believed that Houston would stop into the Julain Okwara role, but that might have been too optimistic considering this was just his second NFL game. Instead, Houston got on the field in the Lions’ NASCAR packages where he was tasked with pinning his ears back and getting after the quarterback. And wouldn’t you know it, he got another sack. His third sack in just 17 NFL snaps. Whew.

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone: 56 (100%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 22 (39%)
Derrick Barnes: 20 (36%) — 15 (58%)
Chris Board: 10 (18%) — 18 (69%)
Anthony Pittman: 5 (9%) — 18 (69%)
Josh Woods: 1 (2%) — 18 (69%)

A Rodriguez/Barnes split has been the standard Lions approach to mitigating Rodrigo’s elbow injury, but Barnes has done a nice job developing and is earning time.

With the Lions nursing a big lead, Board saw a few more snaps than normal, as he continues to be the preferred coverage option at the position.

So who filled the Okwara role at SAM? That was actually Pittman, who has shown the ability to rush the edge and drop into coverage during his career. In the locker room following the game, Pittman confirmed to me that he was set to take on the SAM role this week, but with the Lions taking an early lead, the game plan shifted away from its usage.

Cornerbacks

Jeff Okudah: 56 (100%)
Jerry Jacobs: 56 (100%) — 2 (8%)
Will Harris: 50 (89%) — 11 (42%)
Chase Lucas: 1 (2%) — 14 (54%)
Mike Hughes: 0 (0%) — 3 (12%)

Okudah returned from his concussion this week and was immediately back to a full load of work. On the opposite side of the field, Jacobs and Hughes had been splitting starting reps, but based on this week’s snap counts, it appears coaches have settled on Jacobs being the starting moving forward.

With the Lions shifting away from the SAM linebacker role, Harris saw his snaps at nickel increase. Over the past two weeks, Harris had been shifting between inside and out to help cover for Okudah’s absence, but with Okudah back, Harris played almost exclusively inside this week.

Safety

Kerby Joseph: 56 (100%) — 11 (42%)
DeShon Elliott: 56 (100%)
C.J. Moore: 0 (0%) — 18 (69%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 0 (0%) — 3 (12%)

With Harris’ skill set as the Lions' nickel, they haven’t needed to rely on a third safety much this season, and this snap distribution continues to play out as expected.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 17 (65%)
Scott Daly: 8 (31%)
Michael Badgley: 8 (31%)

The Lions didn’t punt in this game, but Fox still had plenty to do, because every time the Lions scored—eight times—he handled holder and kickoff duties.

One final note.

It was reported ahead of the game that the Lions planned on using Williams as one of their gunner options on punt coverage. Something that was evident during pre-game warmups and confirmed by Campbell in his post-game press conference.

“Yeah, because we felt like that was the biggest impact he could have today,” Campbell said. “That we knew just outright because he can run. And he can do it, he’s tough, he’s physical, and he was all for it. But we didn’t punt.”

The caveat here is the word “today”. As Williams acclimates and his role grows, the team will likely be less inclined to use him on special teams. Especially with players like Mike Hughes and Ifeatu Melifonwu relegated to special teams roles, and both having experience as gunners. What will next week hold? It’s hard to say, but it’s possible the talented rookie is still in play for this role, as they want to maximize his impact.

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