Jameson Williams is averaging 40.5 yards per touch, but five games into his NFL career, the Detroit Lions rookie receiver has had minimal impact on the field.
“I hoped it would click just a little bit faster than it has,” Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson admitted Thursday. “I think we all have, but it takes time sometimes and we’re not losing faith. We’re going to keep pressing it and it’ll end up clicking. At some point he’ll have a big game and, OK, that’s why. That’s why we took him where we took him and that’s why he can help us so much.”
The No. 12 pick of last spring’s draft, Williams has flashed game-breaking speed but played sparingly since returning in early December from the torn ACL he suffered last January in Alabama’s national championship game loss to Georgia.
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Williams has one catch this season, a 41-yard touchdown in a Week 14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, and he broke a 40-yard run on a reverse last week. He has played as the Lions’ fifth receiver, behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond.
Johnson said the Lions are trying to come up with creative ways to get Williams the ball, given his game-breaking ability.
“Each week we’re trying to push the envelope a little bit and maybe learn a couple different routes that he hasn’t been taught yet or put him in a little different spot,” Johnson said. “So yeah, each week we’re trying to do that. It’s just, how fast can we get him along feeling comfortable with it.”
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Along with his rushing attempt last week, Williams had three targets (with no receptions) in a career-high 18 snaps. He had one drop, his second of the season, on a short crossing route when Jared Goff threw behind Williams on a pass over the middle.
Williams also dropped a pass against the Vikings, when Goff threw his way off a jet motion play fake. Johnson insisted he does not have any concerns about Williams’ hands.
“I think the first one we threw to him was a little bit behind. Jared, I think, wishes he’d have gotten it just a little bit out in front,” Johnson said. “But no, we still label it as a drop because anytime it touches one of our pass catcher’s hands, we have high standards. So I know Jamo wishes he would have caught it and Jared needs to put that ball out in front, so it’s a two-way street there. But we really don’t have concerns with drops or anything. I think early on in the season we probably had more drops as an offense and then I think we’ve cleaned that up. We still have the occasional one or two but as an offense we’ve done a much better job.”
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Johnson in demand?
Johnson declined to say if he will accept head coaching interviews when the 2023 hiring cycle begins next week.
In his first season as offensive coordinator, Johnson is expected to generate interest after overseeing a Lions offense that’s been one of the best in the NFL. The Lions enter Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers ranked fourth in the league in scoring (27.1 ppg), third in total offense and fourth in red zone percentage, and Goff is playing some of the best football in his career.
Currently, three NFL teams have head coach vacancies, the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. As many as three more teams could be in the market for new coaches next week.
Teams can request permission to interview assistant coaches with other teams beginning Sunday. Assistants on playoff teams — the Lions will qualify for the postseason if they beat the Packers on Sunday and the Los Angeles Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks — must wait until after their team’s first playoff game to interview.
“We’re looking to beat the Packers,” said Johnson, a North Carolina native. “Not talking about that.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.