While the Detroit Lions don’t have a workhorse running back, such as a Derrick Henry or Ezekiel Elliott, the team has managed to amass a deep backfield stable, led by the versatile tandem of Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift.
Beyond that pair of early round draft picks, the team has a slew of complementary pieces battling from roles, from speedsters Ty Johnson and Jason Huntley to the north-south power styling of Bo Scarbrough, who emerged as a key contributor down the stretch last season.
But the newest piece, added to the roster before the team’s first training camp practice earlier this week, has been turning heads since joining the mix.
A fifth-round pick in 2016, Jonathan Williams has been something of a journeyman through the early stages of his career. After appearing in 11 games as a rookie in Buffalo, he’s had stops in Denver, New Orleans and Indianapolis before landing in Detroit.
With the Colts last season, Williams reminded people of his potential, topping 100 yards in back-to-back games. And the 6-foot, 217-pounder has managed to carry that bit of momentum to the practice field in Detroit, where he’s showcasing a solid combination of vision, power and burst while taking reps with the first- and second-team offensive groups.
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“He’s done a great job,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Really unbelievable, professional guy who just dove right into the playbook and really tried to focus into his job. We do have some guys who have played college football with him, so we had a little bit of a background research there, as far as the type of guy he is.
“He’s a great guy, works hard, just wants to go in and do anything he can to help the team. Just kind of was a good fit for us, and we wanted to bring him in and take a look. Certainly from a skill set level, he’s a big back, he can get downhill but also has some good quickness.”
Williams, who played his college football at Arkansas, overlapped with Lions center Frank Ragnow and defensive end Trey Flowers. In many ways, Ragnow said Williams has a similar approach to the game as Detroit’s top edge rusher.
“He was one of those dudes that impacts you right when you meet him, just kind of an alpha male, blue-collar guy who just kind of puts his head down and works,” Ragnow said. “The guy just works, works and works. Doesn’t say much, kind of the like the Trey Flowers-type. Doesn’t say much and works real hard. I’m really excited he’s part of the Lions.”
If Williams is going to earn a roster spot, it would be as a power component in Detroit’s backfield, and it would likely come at the expense of Scarbrough. A breakout performer a year ago, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry in six games (five starts) during the second half of the 2019 season.
Scarbrough is currently battling an injury, which has sidelined him the past two practices. To bolster the roster’s depth, the team re-signed Wes Hills on Thursday, three days after he was waived to make room for Williams.