ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions have three days to cram for their Thanksgiving showdown with the Buffalo Bills, which doesn’t leave time for much else in these frantic days.
But they still can’t help but get excited by what awaits on the immediate horizon: The NFL debut of Jameson Williams.
“He’s just got so much speed, man,” quarterback Jared Goff said on Monday evening. “He’s got so much ability. Any way that we can use him, whenever that time is he comes back, it’ll give us a boost, somehow, somehow, however many snaps that ends up being, however many balls he ends up catching. Just having him on the field and having his ability to threaten people vertically and to turn a 5-yard throw into a 60-yard gain, that type of stuff, it’s dangerous.”
No doubt. He was among the most explosive players in the nation at Alabama last season, averaging more than 20 yards per catch despite also being a volume shooter who racked up 1,572 yards on the season. He was the only player in his entire draft class to do that, and he did it while playing in the best conference in college football.
Now after a long wait for him to heal from the ACL he tore in the national championship game, the Lions have cleared their first-round pick to begin practicing. They have 21 days to get a look at Williams, although he could return even sooner than that. Detroit hosts Jacksonville and Minnesota after Thanksgiving, before heading back to New York to face the Jets.
It may take some time for Williams to acclimate because he has missed so much practice time. But he’s been around so much at practice and in meetings that he should already have a good grip on the playbook. Whenever he’s fit to see the field, Detroit could activate him because his speed will stretch defenses vertically in a way no one else can.
He’s just that fast.
“I know this: He can run,” head coach Dan Campbell said. “He can run. You either got it or you didn’t, and he’s got it. So, in that regard, he can help.”
Williams was clocked at more than 23 mph in his lone season at Alabama, which is faster than any player in the NFL this year. Seattle running back Kenneth Walker currently leads the way at 22.09 mph.
“Yeah, sure, there will be a learning curve, as there is with all those guys,” Campbell said. “But anything we ask him to do is going to be things we feel like he does well, and he can help us with, that will also set him up to have success as well.”
The Lions won’t have a full practice this week, but the team activated him now anyway to give him an opportunity to start getting reps with the first-team offense. He was expected to run some routes with the other receivers as soon as Monday evening, hours after his activation from the non-football injury list.
“Just (wanted) to get him involved, get him around, see where he can go with it,” Campbell said. “He’s going to run some routes here in a minute, he and a few of our receivers, we’re going to let them run a little bit, have a ball thrown to him and just get his legs under him from a football aspect. ”