Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams spent much of the team’s offseason program under the microscope and for good reason. The Lions spent a lot of draft capital on the former Alabama receiver—sending Pick 32, 34, and 66 in the 2021 NFL Draft to get Williams and the 46th overall pick. Given that we had yet to see Williams in a full practice and he was just coming off news of his six-game suspension, the people were interested in what he had to say and how he performed on the field.
Early impressions of his play were mixed. While his speed was dominant and he was consistently getting open (albeit mostly against second-team defenses), that was occasionally overshadowed by an underdeveloped chemistry with Jared Goff and untimely drops.
Lions wide receiver coach Antwaan Randle-El acknowledged the drops are an area of emphasis with Williams—as it is with most of his room.
“We do it after practice, do it before practice, and really, at the end of the day, it’s the intent of it, like, how am I catching it in certain situations?” Randle-El said this week. “That’s what it comes down to. It’s going to look like that for a little bit because we’re working on a couple of different things to help him from that standpoint. But he knows how to catch the ball.”
Drops weren’t a particularly big problem for Williams in college. In his one year at Alabama, PFF credited him with six drops and a drop rate of just 7.1. In the same year, Garrett Wilson (six drops, 7.9 drop rate), Drake London (eight drops, 8.3), and Josh Downs (10 drops, 9.0) all had bigger issues holding onto the ball.
Randle-El also made it pretty clear that there isn’t a large concern with Williams’ character, which has come under fire by many for his social media conduct and the suspension for breaking the league’s (poorly-communicated) gambling policy. His message to Williams: block out the noise and don’t stop being yourself.
“Just from the whole character deal, man, you’ve got to be who you’re going to be,” Randle-El said. “You’ve really got to silence the noise of the media people, for sure, because if you spit the wrong way, they’re going to write about it. That’s just part of it. He understands that and he’s getting better at that.”
In fact, Randle-El said when it comes to football character, there is no question. The kid has got it.
“I don’t have to motivate him much when it comes to ball. He loves the game and wants to be better and works at it,” Randle-El said.
Obviously, the criticism and the questioning are still going to continue to come from media and fans until Williams—who only had one catch for 41 yards and a touchdown last year—produces more on the field. But he’s already ahead of last year, finally getting the physical reps to match all the mental ones he took last year while recovering from his torn ACL.
“Now, he can actually get those (physical) reps,” Randle-El said. “He’s running those routes and now he can figure out, ‘Oh, this is what coach was talking about. This is why we can’t give an extra move at the top of this route because of the timing.’ Those are the things he’s trying to get and he’s getting them better and better as we go.”