Allen Park — While the Detroit Lions aren’t providing any official updates — outside of generic platitudes about getting better every day/week — we’re reaching a point where rookie receiver Jameson Williams’ debut is fast approaching.
To recap, Williams remains on the injured list, where he’s resided all offseason while rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered during January’s College Football Playoff championship. But he will be eligible to return to practice starting next week. And even if the Lions don’t immediately pull the lever once that window opens, more likely to wait until after the team’s bye the following week, there’s undeniable buzz and curiosity growing around the speedy receiver’s pending debut.
“He’s coming along,” receiver coach Antwaan Randle El said. “Wish (he was ready to go) yesterday, but just coming along. We’ll see. Just got to keep working at it. And that’s the thing, he’s working hard, not just in the weight room, but in the training room and all that stuff, trying to get back and get going and get his first taste, so to speak.”
No one knows what kind of role Williams will have once he’s cleared, especially with a reliable group of starters at the top of Detroit’s depth chart, but Randle El has a great deal of confidence the rookie will be ready for whatever he’s asked to do simply based on his mental acuity.
Between meetings and during practices, the position coach has been having private sessions with his young pupil, quizzing him on the roles of the different receiving positions for the upcoming week’s game plan, including how each is supposed to react to different coverage looks. So far, Williams has been passing those tests with flying colors.
“He’s picking it up. We go over it every day, Randle El said. “It’s like in between sessions we go over the plays with him, he can spit it right back out to me. …You just work every week, you know, what’s in the game plan? Hey, here it is and him go through it and give it to you, so he understands it. He can talk to you about coverages, stuff like that, so he gets it. The physical part, I’m not worried about. It’s always the mental you want to make sure a guy has. He has it. He’s getting it down.
Physically, everyone understands what Williams is capable of becoming, assuming the skill set he displayed at Alabama successful ports to the NFL. Williams possesses rare speed and will likely be the fastest player on Detroit’s roster once activated. With those wheels, he routinely was able to take the top off college defenses, averaging 19.9 yards on his 79 receptions in 2021, which included 15 touchdowns. He also added another two scores on kickoffs, despite only having the opportunity to handle 10 returns.
“Oh, he can play,” Randel El said. “He’s a guy you can move around. He’s smart and he gets it in terms of being in different spots. That’s what you want to do with a guy like that, use his speed, whether it’s him running past somebody or him getting somebody else open. That speed means a lot. And then obviously he catches the ball well and gets in and out of his cuts, him and Saint (Amon-Ra St. Brown) are kinda alike, they get out of cuts so fast. It’s unbelievable. Some people take four steps. This cat takes like 2 1/2. It’s unbelievable.”
Once the Lions decide to allow Williams to begin practicing, they’ll have three weeks before they need to officially add him to the active roster. They’ll likely use all of that time to get him in football shape, making a November debut for the first-round pick most likely.