Detroit Lions’ Jameson Williams working ‘to be the best. One day it’s going to come,’

Detroit Free Press

Jameson Williams’ first padded practice of Detroit Lions training camp didn’t start off so hot Monday.

Williams, who missed five days with a hamstring injury he suffered on Day 2 of camp, dropped the first pass thrown his way in position drills much to the chagrin of fans, needlessly inserted himself into a sideline scrap with teammates during a blocking drill, then followed with three poor reps in one-on-ones.

He stumbled out of his break and dropped a pass on his first rep, then heard about it from undrafted rookie cornerback Starling Thomas V, whose helmet Williams pulled off on the sideline one period earlier. Williams shoved Thomas amidst the jawing, before both parties returned to their side of the field.

On his next rep, Williams couldn’t get both feet in-bounds for a catch against Cam Sutton, and even when he beat C.J. Gardner-Johnson cleanly off the line on his final rep, his release took so long that he was out of synch with his quarterback, who threw incomplete again.

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But Williams showed off one part of his tantalizing skill set a few periods later when he made the key block on Will Harris to spring Jahmyr Gibbs for a long run.

“Ben told me something like in a meeting two days ago,” Williams said of Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. “He said, ‘No block, no rock.’ That’s all I got to say.”

Nine days into his second training camp as a Lion but the first he’s actually participated in, Williams remains quite clearly a work in progress.

He beat Gardner-Johnson with a slick release; got open several times in red zone drills, where he caught one touchdown; elicited groans from fans for his early-practice drop; and seemed to be caught in between trying to be a good teammate and not being able to control his aggression with his post-play antics.

Gardner-Johnson, the NFL co-leader with six interceptions last season, paid Williams a big tribute after practice Saturday — and after spending three practices working alongside Williams in the Lions’ rehab group.

“I don’t know about y’all, but he’s one of the best receivers in the game right now,” Gardner-Johnson said. “You got to give him his flowers, and if you don’t, we’ll see when he gets off what he got — God forbid what happens, but that’s his situation, not talking about it. But working out with him every day, Jamo’s ready. Don’t worry about it. He ready.”

Williams caught one pass and had three drops in six games last season in his return from the torn ACL he suffered in college, and battled drop issues at times again this spring.

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It’s hyperbolic at best to think he’s already one of the best receivers in the game.

But as he ticks towards his second season, with a six-game suspension to serve to start the year for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, Williams said that’s exactly where he’s trying to be.

“Just work. That’s it,” Williams said. “Work. That’s all it takes is work and I’m going to work to be the best. One day it’s going to come.”

Lions coach Dan Campbell expressed some concern Sunday about the work Williams has missed already, especially given what’s to come. Unable to practice the first half of last season while he rehabbed, Williams pulled up early in the Lions’ second practice of camp and missed the first two days of pads. When he suspension begins in September, he must spend three weeks away from the team and can’t practice for another three weeks after that.

“It’s important,” Campbell said. “We need him out there. He needs the reps, he needs the mental reps — but, there again, he’s out there in the afternoon walk-throughs going through those things. But during the morning practice, that’s his — part of that time is to get him out there in rehab, get him running, get him moving, but yeah, he’s a young player, hadn’t played. And so, yeah, we do need him out there. And the clock’s ticking every day.”

Williams expressed less concern about his missed time Monday, noting he took part in offseason throwing sessions with Lions quarterback Jared Goff and other receivers this summer.

“I feel like I get work every day,” Williams said. “I’m getting the same work as the whole team. I get to practice with the team, I get to work out with the team, I get to do everything with the team so I wouldn’t say it’s a sense of urgency.”

The Lions have more padded practices this week and joint practices next week against the New York Giants before playing their first preseason game. They have another set of joint practices the following week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and close the preseason against the Carolina Panthers.

Williams should get plenty of reps this summer to prepare for the season, and when he finally takes the field, he said fans are “going to see a lot coming from me” given the improvements he’s made to his game.

“A lot of people ain’t got a chance to see me play,” he said. “I played six games last year, got to miss six this year so I’m just hoping to go put a show on with me and my team, showing that we can do this.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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