To be completely honest, it has been an offseason program to forget for Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams. Granted, this is the first set of OTAs and minicamp Williams has ever gone through after missing the entire offseason program last year with his ACL injury. Still, he’s dealt with regularly dropped passes and a clear lack of chemistry with Jared Goff.
But during Wednesday’s minicamp practice, the potential of Jameson Williams as a huge difference-maker was on display, especially during full-team drills.
Williams is mostly repping with the second-team offense, but on Thursday he did exactly what the 12th-overall pick in the draft should do: dominate a bunch of backups.
During an 11-on-11 drill, where the offense started around their own 30-35 yard line, Williams immediately kicked the drive off with back-to-back catches from Nate Sudfeld for a combined 36 yards. Sudfeld went back to him again on the next pass, but rookie cornerback Starling Thomas V likely would’ve drawn a flag on the play for clear pass interference.
Later in practice, the team worked on a red-zone opportunity: The offense started at the 10-yard line with only 10 seconds to score a touchdown. The first-team offense struggled to find the end zone with the defense playing with eight guys in coverage—several just waiting on the goal line. But on the very first play of the session for the second team, Williams burst open by a few steps along the back of the end zone and Sudfeld found him for the easy score.
There is still a ways to go for Williams, and several times during Wednesday’s practice you could see receivers coach Antwaan Randle-El having long conversations with him, but this was a big step in the right direction.
Here are five other standouts from Wednesday’s practice:
It’s been a relatively quiet start to minicamp for Gibbs, as he’s mostly made impressions during individual drills for his explosiveness and his speed. And while I’ve seen more drops than I’d like out of him through a handful of practices, Wednesday was a showcase of just how dangerous he can be.
During 11-on-11s, Gibbs took a quick slant—overextending to catch it—and likely would have taken it to the house for a 40+ yard gain, beating out the linebacker in coverage and splitting the defensive backs. Later during 7-on-7s, he cleanly beat Jalen Reeves-Maybin for another potentially huge gain.
One last important note on Gibbs: during a section of positional drills, the quarterbacks are working solely with the receivers, while the tight ends and running backs are at the other end of the field. During that portion of practice, Gibbs has consistently been with the wide receivers.
Also interesting during those set of drills: Jared Goff stepped in and made sure he was throwing to five specific players in the rotation, even if it wasn’t his turn. Those five players: Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Marvin Jones Jr., and Gibbs. When the tight ends came into the group, Goff made sure to throw to two: Brock Wright and Sam LaPorta.
CB Starling Thomas V
The man who was matched up against Williams for much of the day had some good battles with him. He tallied at least two pass breakups while in coverage—although he likely would’ve been called for at least two penalties on the day, as well. Still, for an undrafted rookie to be involved in some serious battles with a first-round talent is impressive.
Thomas also closed out practice with an interception. The Lions were a little more shorthanded on defense than usual—Jerry Jacobs sat out most of the second part of practice—so Thomas got a little run with the first-team defense. During 7-on-7s with the first-team offense—but against the third-team offense—Thomas jumped in front of an Adrian Martinez pass for a clean interception where he read the quarterback’s eyes perfectly.
Due to his elite athleticism and special teams capabilities, Thomas has already been identified as a rookie UDFA who could make a crack at the 53-man roster. If he strings together practices like this, it will help his case.
Houston has consistently been repping with the third-team defense. Whether this is a motivational tactic or simply Dan Campbell prioritizing seniority, remains to be seen. But during Wednesday’s practice Houston did exactly what he did in the second half of last season: create havoc.
Working mostly against Obinna Eze, Houston arguably had three sacks on a single drive. Granted, Martinez was holding onto the ball for far too long—and both Zach Morton and Julian Okwara earned “sacks” on the same drive. Still, Houston stuck out as a player clearly better than his cohorts on the third team.
Joseph continues to be an absolute ball-hawk at practice. On the second play of 11-on-11s, Joseph looked like he was beat by Kalif Raymond deep. And while he was aided by a poor underthrow from Goff, Joseph made up the space in a hurry and picked off the pass.
Later, during the goal-line drill, Joseph jumped a pass intended for Amon-Ra St. Brown and nearly had his second interception of the day—and probably would have if St. Brown hadn’t hauled him down before the pass came.
And with no C.J. Gardner-Johnson at practice on Wednesday, no one on the field was louder than Joseph. He’s walking the walk and talking the talk.
Marvin Jones Jr.
The only person who looks more natural and smooth running routes than Jones. is Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jones is so deliberate in every step he takes, and it’s made the chemistry between him and Jared Goff natural and immediate.
Jones did have a drop on a pass through traffic, but he made up for it with an impressive contested catch grab at the back of the end zone with the second-team offense. The offense and defense debated whether he came down with it, but from where I was standing, he had both possession and two feet down.
- Coaches from Eastern Michigan were on hand to watch Lions UDFA receiver Dylan Drummond and quietly cheer him on. Drummond has made a few plays in camp thus far and had a solid contested catch with Brandon Joseph draped all over him.
- Another solid day from Nate Sudfeld, who has a decent command of the offense and more arm strength than I anticipated. He had an absolutely beautiful touch pass to Tom Kennedy for a 20-yard gain on a corner route, floating the pass just over the defender’s hand and allowing Kennedy to toe-tap in bounds.
- Rookie DT Brodric Martin had a nice pass batted down during 11-on-11s, as he was right in the face of Sudfeld when the pass was released.
- Steven Gilmore, an undrafted corner out of Marshall, had one of the best defensive plays of the day, locking down Amon-Ra St. Brown on a quick out on a gotta-have-it play from the 1-yard line and breaking up the pass.