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Discussion: How much should Jameson Williams play vs. Panthers?

It’s clear Detroit Lions WR Jameson Williams won’t immediately be a full-time starter now that his suspension is over. But how much will—and should—he play vs. the Panthers?

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions got great news last week when the NFL altered its penalties for those who violate the league’s policies on gambling. Part of that announcement was reducing the suspension of Jameson Williams from six games to four, making him eligible to play this week against the Carolina Panthers.

But on Monday, Lions coach Dan Campbell warned not to expect too much too soon from the Lions’ 2022 first-round pick.

“If he does play (this week), he can’t play 60 plays,” Campbell said. “That’s not smart, so we can’t do that to him.”

It should come as no surprise that the Lions will not rush Williams into a starting role. Whenever a player has missed significant time—whether it be due to injury or anything else—the Lions have regularly eased them into action. Williams has only been inside the Lions facility for a week after the suspension forced him away from the team for the previous three weeks. He hasn’t practiced with the team in seven weeks.

It would be unrealistic to expect Williams to step right in there and take over a starting role with just three practices this week—regardless of where he was drafted.

But it’s more than that, too. We can’t ignore the fact that when Williams was last practicing with the team, he did not look good. He was repping with the second string offense, he was battling problems with drops, and he did not seem to be on the same page as his quarterback. That’s where he’s likely picking up his game, as he returns to practice.

So today’s Question of the Day is:

How much should Jameson Williams play Sunday vs. the Panthers?

My answer: Don’t be surprised if Williams doesn’t play at all.

Okay, before you lose your mind, let me explain. There are two very telling moments from Campbell’s presser on Monday. The first is the quote above. He starts his statement with, “If he does play...” which I think is no accident. The implication there is Williams will have to earn his way onto the field this Sunday, which is the case for everyone on this roster. They won’t make an exception for a high draft pick.

Then, Campbell was asked what he wants to see out of Williams for the rest of the year to qualify as a “successful” season. It’s fair to say his response was a little unorthodox.

“For me, it’s dependability. That’s it. Reliability, dependability, get lined up, know where you’re supposed to be, we’re going to get the depth out of you, and we can count on you to be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and that’s it. That’s it. I’m not looking for yards, I’m not looking for explosives, I’m not looking for touchdowns. Man, just be a reliable receiver like any of those guys in the room. That’s it. And to me, that’s a good year, because we’re about winning. It’s not about one player. And that’ll help us win.”

Reading between the lines, Campbell seems to be implying that Williams needs to improve the very basics of his game: knowing where to be on the field, getting the details down in his routes, and just being an overall dependable player.

The Lions offense has been more than dependable throughout four weeks without the need for Williams. So why risk that right away if Williams isn’t displaying those necessary traits? A guy like Marvin Jones Jr. may not be giving you those yards, explosive plays or touchdowns (that Campbell apparently doesn’t care about right now), but you better believe a seasoned player like him knows where to be lined up, how deep to run his route, and his blocking assignments. That may seem trivial and unimportant, but those details are actually essential to making a play work, even if the ball doesn’t come his way. If you’re in the right spot, you may draw the coverage the play is designed to draw, helping another player get open.

If Williams can’t do that bare minimum right away—and Campbell’s words imply he’ll have to at least improve there—then don’t rock the boat yet. Detroit is winning and there is too much on the line to force an unready player into the lineup just because you drafted him high.

So I wouldn’t have a problem if Williams doesn’t play this week, but if he does, I wouldn’t expect anything more than 10 snaps.

How much do you think Williams should play on Sunday? How much do you want him to play? Scroll down to the comment section below and let us know!

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