It’s no surprise that Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams has made some headlines of late for his lack of ball security. Though Williams has only played in a handful of NFL games in his young career, he has had issues securing catches often in practices, even dating back to last season.
And in case you thought maybe this was a narrative being created by the media, on Wednesday Lions coach Dan Campbell acknowledge the drops and said it’s something they are addressing with the 2022 first-round pick.
“They show up and that’s something we’ve talked about with him and he knows that too,” Campbell said. “I think man, working his hand mechanics. He has to work those pre-practice, he has to work those post-practice. I mean really, he just has to grind on it.”
Williams hasn’t yet joined the crew of receivers doing 200+ reps on the Jugs machine after practice. But he has been one of the first players on the field before practice, and he’s drawn inspiration from high-effort players like Amon-Ra St. Brown.
“You see him right now, he’s probably on the Jugs getting work in,” Williams said this week. “He’s just a warrior. I see that and I say, ‘Yeah, we got to get to it.’ I love playing with somebody like that because he ain’t going to stop. We got to go, and we’re going to get it done for sure.”
One way the Lions plan on making sure Williams—who will be suspended for the first six games of the season—gets in the necessary work is to give him a lot of playing time in the preseason.
“It’s going to be huge. It’ll be imperative,” Campbell said. “We’re going to douse him with a ton of game reps. He needs that. He needs that. As he does (need) practice, but man, and I’m telling you, as with anybody, the more reps he gets, the more time on task, the more consecutive practices and reps he can put together, he’ll just grow. I really believe that. And I do believe he wants it. I do believe he wants to get better, I do believe. So he’ll grind through this and let’s see where we can go with it.”
Campbell was very honest about Williams’ game, though. He didn’t mince words, noting that Williams is unlikely to grow into “an elite pass-catcher” when it comes to ball skills. The expectation, though, is he’ll compensate by using his elite athletic traits to create separation, giving him more time and space to corral passes. But it won’t be as easy as it was in college.
“He’s been able to create so much separation where he came from that (the drop issue) wasn’t as big of a deal, but in this league, you’re getting contested catches,” Campbell said. “I think that’s why I brought up the details of his routes. With his speed, the more he can really hone in on the details, his explosive speed, man, there’ll be a level of separation, you’d like to believe, different than most to where it’s not always going to be these contested catches. So, there’s a little give and take there.”
Campbell was also quick to remind everyone that Williams hasn’t played a lot of football lately. He only had a single season at Alabama, didn’t get to practice in training camp last year, and got less than two months of work with the team once he was finally cleared of his ACL injury.
“It’s not an excuse, but he hasn’t practiced,” Campbell said. “I mean he didn’t practice last year. He came in during the year and we kind of had a couple plays for him here and there, but [...] this is his first significant time to get (right).”
Ultimately, the goal is to work Williams hard for the next month, so that when he comes back from his suspension, he’ll be able to hit the ground running with quarterback Jared Goff and the rest of the offense.
“You want to feel like by the end of camp, man, there’s a level of polish,” Campbell said. “Man, the splits, the route depth—you want to begin to feel like there’s a lot of polish to detail and that he has this pretty good rapport with Goff by the time he leaves, because I think if we can get there, I don’t think it will take very long to pick it back up once he comes back.”