Allen Park — It took one day of practice for wide receiver Jameson Williams to confirm he’s exactly the guy the Detroit Lions thought he was when they drafted him in the first round in April.
“Certainly the speed does pop out,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “Hopefully we can keep getting him more reps as he’s getting acclimated and we’ll see where that takes us. Honesty, I’ve been more impressed than anything with once he gets in between those white lines his demeanor is all about football. That’s what we thought we were getting when we drafted him back in the spring and that’s held true.”
Williams, who is in the final stages of his recovery from last January’s torn ACL, is nearing his pro debut. Coach Dan Campbell said earlier in the week it would be a tall task for Williams to see the field this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it’s clear it’s only a matter of time for the rookie.
Johnson said the biggest hurdle remaining for Williams is building chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff. The two worked routes together for the first time Wednesday, so there’s a gap that needs to be bridged in the coming days before the team would feel comfortable deploying the speedy receiver.
“That takes time,” Johnson said. “It’s different than when you acquire Josh Reynolds middle of the season and instantly that connection is there. So we’re in a race to develop that as fast as we can, push that envelope.”
Johnson was referencing the midseason waiver addition of Reynolds in 2021. He had played the previous four seasons in Goff in Los Angeles prior to reuniting in Detroit.
Williams agrees the chemistry and mental side of the game aren’t something that comes instantaneously, but he’s been spending extra time with Goff, with the quarterback quizzing the rookie on his role within plays.
“I wouldn’t say it’s something we’re trying to speed up,” Williams said. “We have a good connection right now. We got two days (of practice) under us, and it’s been looking pretty good. It just comes with time.”
Physically, Williams said he’s having little problem shaking off the rust following his prolonged absence from the field.
“I’m running real fast right now,” Williams said. “I feel real fast, feeling good.”
Goff hasn’t ever played with a wide receiver quite like Williams, but one comes to mind as close: Brandin Cooks.
“Brandin Cooks is probably the fastest guy I’ve played with, and it’s a different type of speed though, and again, I haven’t seen (Williams) play in a real game, but he’s longer,” Goff said. “He’s a stride guy. He’s got length. He’s got wingspan. Brandin was more just kind of a burner and has done that well for a long time, but Jameson, he can extend on guys. He can really make catches away from his body, that type of stuff.”
A first-round pick out of Oregon State in 2014, Cooks has had a stellar career, but one where the production has sometimes been overshadowed by the fact he’s been traded three times. Still, in eight full seasons, he’s topped 1,000 yards six times, while averaging nearly six touchdowns per season.
That’s the type of production you dream about when taking a receiver early in the draft, like the Lions did when they traded up 20 spots to snag Williams with the No. 12 pick this past April.
“I think we all excited, man,” teammate DJ Chark said. “The excitement that you guys feel and we feel is for real. I definitely believe that he’s a superstar. …That’s just one thing about him that a lot of guys don’t have is the confidence, confidence in himself to go out there and make the play. If you have that, that’s half the battle. If you believe you can make the play, you will make the play. I feel like he has that.”
Cooks, like Williams, missed a chunk of his rookie season due to injury. While Detroit’s receiver has been sidelined for months while rehabbing his way back from the torn ACL, Cooks missed six games with a broken thumb.
Cooks arguably had the best season of his career with Goff as his quarterback, posting a personal-best 1,204 yards on 80 catches in 2018. The QB earned Pro Bowl honors that season as the Rams ended up in the Super Bowl, where they fell to the New England Patriots.
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Now Goff will look to forge the same type of chemistry with his newest target.
“How much he’s able to help us in the next six games?” Goff said. “We’ll see, but certainly as a quarterback, you want him on the field as soon as possible.”
As for Johnson, he’s had to put thoughts of Williams on the backburner while trying to win games without the services of the explosive playmaker who racked up 1,572 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns for Alabama last year. But there was a vision the team had when they selected Williams and they’re eager to put it into action.
“I think back in the spring time, we had a pretty good vision for how we’re going to use him,” Johnson said. “That hasn’t changed, especially after what I saw yesterday. It will be a little bit of trail and error, too. Is he Tyreek Hill or (Jaylen) Waddle from Miami? I don’t know if he’s quite like that. He’s unique. So we’ll find out what he’s capable of.”