Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson: Lions not pushing panic button on Jameson Williams yet

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions finally saw the playmaking of rookie receiver Jameson Williams resurface in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, as the No. 12 pick took a double reverse for 40 yards on Detroit’s touchdown drive to open the second half.

Earlier in the game, though, he also showed that there’s still plenty of room to grow before he becomes the dependable playmaker the Lions are hoping they drafted. Jared Goff targeted Williams on a ball that was slightly behind him, but Williams got both hands on it before it fell to the turf.

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson — who classified the play as a drop — said Williams is taking longer to get going than Johnson would have liked, but nobody’s pressing the panic button on the first-year Alabama talent just yet.

“For us, we still label it as a drop,” Johnson said. “Any time it touches one of our pass catchers — we have high standards in that, so I know Jamo wishes he wold have caught it. And then Jared needs to put that ball out in front, so it’s a two-way street there, but no, we really don’t have concerns with drops or anything.”

“It’s been — I hoped it would click just a little bit faster than it has, you know? I think we all have. But that’s — it takes time sometimes. We’re not losing faith and we’re gonna keep pressing it, and it’ll end up clicking at some point. He’ll have a big game and it’ll be like, ‘OK, that’s why. That’s why we took him. That’s why he can help us so much.”

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In five games, Williams has been targeted eight times. He has caught just one of those passes, the 41-yard touchdown against Minnesota. Some of those throws have missed the target — such is life as a deep threat — and others have fallen at his feet, without any indication as to who was at fault for the lack of execution.

Williams said he has no complaints with the number of opportunities the Lions have thrown his way.

“It takes time coming back from this type of injury,” Williams said at his locker Thursday. “It’s been a real great plan. They had a real great plan for me, and we just been moving well. We got a lot of wins and everything’s just been going good.”

The Lions would love for Williams to already have showed the dynamism he did in college, but are cognizant of the fact that he joined the team midseason and is still developing his NFL toolbag. That the Lions found a way to get the ball in Williams’ hands without throwing it to him should be an indication of where they value that part — “speed in space” — of his game right now.

“Each week, we’re trying to push the envelope a little bit, 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, and it’s just, how fast can we get along feeling comfortable with it?”

Stopping Nixon

Packers kick returner Keisean Nixon is on a heater. He ranks first in the NFL in total return yardage (930) and average kick return (30.0). He had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just last week.

So when Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp stepped to the lectern Thursday, the question was begging to be asked: Do you even kick to him?

Fipp said he’ll be “staying away from strategy” talk, but offered some insight as to why simply kicking the ball out of the end zone in what’s expected to be mid-to-high-20s temperatures might not be as easy as it sounds.

“We look forward to the opportunity to play against him. He is playing great right now for them and he’s been really productive,” Fipp said. “… Any time we play in cold weather, kicking the ball just out of the back of the end zone, it’s not as much of an option.

“We know we’re gonna cover some kicks. (The Packers) know they’re gonna have to cover some kicks, no matter who’s kicking for them, and I think our guys are excited for the challenge ahead of us.”

Swift a sight for sore eyes

Jamaal Williams had a career-best day against Chicago on Sunday, but that might not even have been the most important development for Detroit’s ground attack out of that game.

D’Andre Swift, the team’s No. 1 back entering the season, had his best performance since Week 1, running for 78 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Swift has battled ankle and shoulder injuries this season, prompting some concern that he frankly would never return to Week 1 Swift — but he sure did look like his old self against Chicago.

“He’s electric, certainly felt that last game,” Johnson said. “It felt like (he was) back to where he was when he started the season, so it’ll be great. Great to get that version of Swift again this week and it makes it … a lot easier for us calling plays and staying on schedule.”

Cleated up

We should know by now that the Lions are not immune to cold-weather disasters, but they appear to have learned a lesson about traveling to Lambeau during last week’s Vikings-Packers game: Just wear spikes.

Vikings players slid all over the field in a 41-17 loss to the Packers, a mistake that a few Lions players said they won’t make.

“Just put on the studded things and stop trying to look cute. That’s it,” Jamaal Williams, who played with the Packers for four seasons, said. “Like, just play with the field, honestly. I understand people are scared to put ’em on. I don’t know why, honestly. I feel like it helps a lot. That’s what helps me a lot when it’s raining and it’s muddy and all them, like — just put on the studders and go out there and play ball.”

“We don’t want excuses, we want to go out there and perform and go out there with a dub. So we’ll be ready for the field.”

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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