Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams is expected to log a significant amount of snaps throughout the preseason. Williams is eligible to play in exhibition games despite being suspended for the first six games of the 2023 regular season due to violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Williams needs to enjoy a productive preseason while preparing to make a midseason return to the lineup.
“We’re going to douse him with a ton of game reps,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said regarding Williams’ pending involvement throughout the preseason. “He needs that, you know? As he does practice. 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.”
It’s an appropriate decision from Campbell given Williams’ lack of in-game reps. Lions general manager Brad Holmes picked Williams in the middle of the first round in the 2022 NFL Draft despite him suffering a torn ACL in his final collegiate game. Williams ended up playing limited offensive snaps through Detroit’s last six games. He recorded just two touches—a 41-yard touchdown catch and a 40-yard run. It’s safe to say Williams maximized his few opportunities.
Welcome to the NFL: Jameson Williams first career catch is a 41-yard TD. Ford Field is rocking. pic.twitter.com/iyLtW5ofon
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 11, 2022
Jameson Williams goes 40 yards on the end around pic.twitter.com/06eof7SYAJ
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) January 1, 2023
Williams was slated to play a significant role in Detroit’s offense entering his second season. That projection will now have to wait until Williams makes his expected return to the lineup in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens. Williams needs to start building immediate momentum, or he risks getting lost in the shuffle.
Williams has enjoyed up-and-down performances throughout the early portion of training camp. He has struggled with drops and general consistency, which isn’t shocking given his lack of experience. He needs to start stacking positive reps together while developing into a more natural hands catcher. Williams was also involved in a scuffle with undrafted cornerback Starling Thomas V that saw the former Alabama receiver throw an ill-advised punch at his teammate.
Thankfully, high-level flashes have also been present. On Monday, Williams got the better of 2022 interceptions leader C.J. Gardner-Johnson with an elite release, per Michigan Live. On Wednesday, Williams made the highlight-of-the-day catch by beating cornerback Cam Sutton down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown. It was a signature streak for Williams, who got five yards behind Sutton during seven-on-seven periods. Elite speed was on display.
Gaining Jared Goff’s trust is imperative to Williams salvaging his sophomore campaign, which has already suffered a six-game setback before it even began. If Williams continues making big plays at practice, and throughout the preseason, he’ll endear himself to Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. That’s the best way for Williams to ensure Johnson has a plan for his midseason return, one that includes more touches than he received last year.
The Lions are well-equipped to absorb Williams’ early-season absence. Their high-octane offense finished No. 4 in total yards and No. 5 in scoring last season. They also added talents like Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, and David Montgomery to the fold this summer. Amon-Ra St. Brown appears poised to cement himself as an elite receiving option. Competition for targets and playing time will be fierce, which adds emphasis to the importance of Williams playing a good preseason.
But if the Lions are to take a desired step forward by winning the NFC North and qualifying for the postseason, they’ll likely require contributions from Williams. If Williams capitalizes on the abundance of reps he receives throughout the preseason, he’ll place himself in a better position to make a noticeable impact once he returns from suspension. Williams’ performance during the exhibition could help determine his year-two outlook.