Jamaal Williams

What Lions’ RB Depth Means For Roster Spots

The 2021 Lions saw injuries nag at their running backs room throughout the season last year and were forced to rely on the backs they had stashed further down on the roster. Coming into the 2022 NFL season, Detroit’s running backs room looks mostly the same, but improving health could leave some contributors from last year as the odd man (or men) out. 

There’s obviously no question atop the Lions’ depth chart at running back. Despite his lack of starts last season, D’Andre Swift dominated the position’s snap count totals. He was nearly matched in rushing statistics by the team’s No. 2 back, but Swift played a much more impactful role in the passing game, catching 62 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns. That No. 2 back was Jamaal Williams, picking up a role he held for four years across the division in Green Bay. Williams rushed for 601 yards, to Swift’s 617, on 153 carries, an amount almost identical to Swift’s 151. While not quite as impactful, Williams was still effective receiving out of the backfield, adding 26 catches for 157 yards.

Swift and Williams are set to return to their roles at the top of the depth chart and, perhaps, improve on them. Swift’s health is paramount to his potential impact. If he can stay on the field, many in Detroit’s camp believe he could be a Pro Bowler after his third year in the league. He’s spent a lot of time with running backs coach Duce Staley analyzing where he can improve, and his first two seasons have proven he is a much more dangerous weapon receiving the ball than anyone saw during his college years. Williams is a great complement to Swift. He’s a tough back with experience to help lead the youthful position group.

Now behind those two, four running backs are left to compete for one or two roster spots. Godwin Igwebuike may have the clearest line to a roster spot. Despite entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent four seasons ago, Igwebuike made his first rush attempt last season. He ended the year with only 18 total carries (though one of those carries was a 42-yard touchdown), but he really made his impact as the Lions’ primary kick returner. His special teams experience gives Igwebuike a bit of an edge over the other three fighting to make the 53-man roster.

Even if Igwebuike’s role as a return man solidifies his job, the Lions entered the 2021 season with four running backs on the roster. If they were to do the same in 2022, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, and undrafted rookie Greg Bell would be the ones competing this summer for that final spot.

Reynolds appeared in games with Washington and Jacksonville after going undrafted in 2019, but finally got a chance to show his stuff last season in Detroit. When Swift and Williams were both ruled out for the team’s Week 14 matchup against the Broncos, Reynolds was elevated from the practice squad. After amassing 83 yards on 11 carries, Reynolds was given the opportunity to start the following week versus the Cardinals. Reynolds answered the call with a 112-yard game on 26 carries, helping the Lions beat Arizona as massive underdogs. Reynolds’ role was relegated a bit after the return of Williams, but Detroit still seems to like what he can offer as they gave Reynolds some run with the first-team offense in OTAs this spring.

Despite the opportunities provided by the injuries to Swift and Williams, Jefferson failed to find his way to the field much as a rookie last season. As a freshman in college, Jefferson excelled with 1,380 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Injuries and COVID-19 limited his production over the next two years, but he still found himself on the Lions’ draft board on May 1st of last year. In order to secure a roster spot, Jefferson is going to have to find a way to contribute as a pass catcher or a pass blocker, roles he didn’t perform much in college. Otherwise, Jefferson may find himself on the outside looking in come September.

Bell took advantage of the extra year of eligibility afforded to college players due to COVID-19 last year and earned himself an opportunity as an undrafted free agent in Detroit. In his final college season, Bell rushed for 1,091 yards and 9 touchdowns on 245 carries. He was virtually non-existent in the passing game for San Diego State, though. He has some impressive rushing tools that force the Lions to keep him in the conversation, but he has a lot of work to do to ensure a spot on the final 53-man roster.

Swift and Williams are cemented in their roles. Igwebuike and Reynolds have shown how they can contribute. Jefferson and Bell are young, promising backs that will attempt to wreak a little havoc in the personnel decisions that face Detroit. They’ll all have lots to prove this summer leading into the regular season.

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/20/21

A long list of players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. We listed the players who landed on the list today, as well as those who were activated off the list:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DE John Franklin-Myers, DB Sharrod Neasman

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Lions QB Jared Goff Lands On Reserve/COVID-19 List

After a shocking win over the Cardinals yesterday, the Lions will be looking to carry that momentum into next weekend’s game against the Falcons. Unfortunately, Detroit might have to go for their second-straight win without their starting QB. The Lions announced today that they’ve placed quarterback Jared Goff on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

While things certainly haven’t gone right in Detroit this season, the team’s struggles aren’t entirely Goff’s fault. The 27-year-old has completed 67 percent of his passes this year for 3,007 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He’s also been victim to a career-high 34 sacks for the 2-11-1 Lions.

Goff was forced to miss Week 11 against the Browns, and backup Tim Boyle ended up throwing for only 77 yards and two interceptions in the loss. If Goff isn’t able to play this weekend, there’s a chance Boyle gets another start for Detroit.

The Lions made a handful of additional moves today. Besides Goff, offensive tackle Matt Nelson was also placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while cornerback Mark Gilbert and running back Jamaal Williams were activated from the list. The team placed linebacker Alex Anzalone on IR, and they signed running back Craig Reynolds to the active roster following a breakout game yesterday.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/10/21

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

Latest On Lions, Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley left his Lions visit without a deal, but head coach Dan Campbell says the one-time superstar is still in consideration (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). Meanwhile, Campbell says the Lions’ interest in Gurley is not a reflection on any of the team’s current running backs. 

[RELATED: Swift Wants Lions To Sign Gurley]

Look, we have interest in Todd. We do. We’re talking with him and his agent. But just because we have interest in him that does not affect our feeling and our thoughts on both (D’Andre Swift) and (Jamaal Williams). It does not.”

We already know that Swift agrees with that assessment — he’s been vocal about his desire to play with Gurley, a fellow Georgia alum. And, even if the Lions add Gurley to the roster, they can’t necessarily count on his health, given his recent history.

Gurley was a two-time All-Pro for the Rams, racking up 40 all-purpose touchdowns between 2017 and 2018. But, due to knee trouble, he posted just 3.8 yards per tote and 6.7 yards per catch in 2019. Last year, he was held to just 3.5 yards per carry with the Falcons while adding 25 grabs for 164 yards.

Ultimately, Gurley profiles as a potential low-risk, high-reward signing for the Lions. And, if things don’t work out, Gurley still has several months to find his next NFL home.

Latest On Packers RB Jamaal Williams

While Aaron Jones will set the market for running backs this offseason, another major member of the Packers backfield will also be entering free agency. As Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes, running back Jamaal Williams “never received an in-season offer from the Packers” and is set to hit free agency. Wilde also reports that Williams recently changed representation, hiring agent Bardia Ghahremani.

The 25-year-old running back has had a consistent role in the Packers offense since entering the league in 2017. This included a 2020 campaign where he ran for 505 yards and two touchdowns on 119 carries while adding 31 receptions for 236 yards and one score. He compiled another 110 yards from scrimmage in the playoffs.

Perhaps most importantly, Williams has also served as Aaron Rodgers‘ top blocking running back, with the quarterback praising the production of the fourth-year pro.

“Obviously I’m a big Jamaal Williams fan, not just his play but his energy and the person he is,” Rodgers said (via Wilde). “He’s a do-it-all guy. He’s a slasher, he hits the hole, he’s also great out of the backfield, he’s got really good feet.”

The Packers have leaned heavily on the Jones/Williams tandem in recent years, but the team could be forced to look for cheaper alternatives to fill out their depth chart. In the event that both running backs end up leaving for big-money deals, Green Bay would likely give the reigns to 2020 second-rounder AJ Dillon.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/10/20

We’ve got a long list of all the minor transactions from the last day or so:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • Waived: DL Ron’Dell Carter
  • Promoted: WR DeMichael Harris

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Football Team

Latest On Packers RB Jamaal Williams

Although he went down on Thursday night, Packers running back Jamaal Williams did not suffer any ligament damage in his knee, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Williams “could” miss Green Bay’s next game — which doesn’t occur until October 8 — but is unlikely to be sidelined for any additional action.Jamaal Williams (Vertical)

Williams, a fourth-round rookie out of BYU, took over the Packers’ starting running back job last night after Ty Montgomery suffered broken ribs. However, Williams was dealt his own injury blow after playing only 12 offensive snaps. In that time, the 22-year-old rushed four times for 11 yards and caught his only target for two yards. On the season, Williams has posted nine carries for 32 yards.

While there hasn’t been a medical update on Montgomery, he seems likely to miss time, so rookie Aaron Jones could handle the lion’s share of carries in Green Bay’s next contest. Devante Mays — the third running back drafted by the Packers in 2017 — will likely be active when the Packers face the Cowboys in Week 5, while fullback Aaron Ripkowski will also ply a large role. A free agent addition can’t be ruled out, although the need for an external option may be reduced given William’s optimistic timeline.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Adams, Bears

Packers wideout Davante Adams was taken to the hospital on Thursday night following a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan, but “everything is progressing well” for Adams, according to head coach Mike McCarthy“He’s already giving them a hard time at the hospital to get out of there so that’s a great sign,” McCarthy said, per Curtis Crabrtee of Pro Football Talk. Adams suffered a concussion but his MRI is “clean,” per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Trevathan, meanwhile, earned a 15-yard personal foul for the hit but wasn’t ejected from last night’s game. The play is under review by the NFL, however, and Trevathan could be subject to a suspension, tweets Rapoport.

Here’s more from the NFC North, with a focus on Thursday Night Football:

  • Starting running back Ty Montgomery left last night’s contest early after suffering broken ribs, and the Packers are also down their No. 2 runner in Jamaal Williams, who is believed to have sprained his knee on Thursday, per Rapoport (Twitter link). Williams will likely miss time, meaning Green Bay will now lean on rookies Aaron Jones and Devante Mays in the backfield. While the Packers could conceivably get by with Jones, Mays, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski, the club will almost certainly add another back. Green Bay doesn’t have a running back on its practice squad, so it could look to a free agent market that includes DeAngelo Williams, Rashad Jennings, C.J. Spiller, and Ryan Mathews.
  • Bears quarterback Mike Glennon struggled on Thursday, tossing one touchdown against two interceptions while losing two fumbles, but head coach John Fox didn’t immediately commit to making a change under center, as Crabtree writes in a separate piece“We need to make a lot of changes,” Fox said. “We’ll evaluate everything. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we line up against Minnesota Monday night and we’re going to look at everything.” Chicago, of course, signed Glennon to a three-year, $45MM contract this offseason that contains $18.5MM guaranteed, but also moved up to the No. 2 overall pick to select UNC’s Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have an extended break before facing the Vikings on October 9.
  • After being benched at the start of the second half of last night’s contest, Packers cornerback Damarious Randall wasn’t on the sideline for the rest of the game and also wasn’t present in the post-game locker room, report Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Although McCarthy called the issue an “internal matter,” Demovsky speculates Randall could potentially be suspended or even waived. A second-round pick in 2015, Randall has thus far graded as a bottom-15 NFL cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Former Packers long snapper Brett Goode received a four-week injury settlement, while fullback Joe Kerridge got three weeks, according to veteran NFL reporter Bob McGinn (Twitter links). Both players must wait three weeks plus the length of their respective settlements before they’re eligible to re-sign with Green Bay.

NFC Notes: Morris, Packers, Lions, Bradberry

Alfred Morris only played 112 snaps during his first season with the Cowboys, and Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes that the veteran running back’s future with the organization “remains murky.”

According to the writer, the Cowboys believe Morris has more success when he has more carries, but that isn’t a possibility in Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott should see even more responsibility in his second NFL season, and the team also re-signed veteran Darren McFadden this offseason.

Despite the uncertainty, running backs coach Gary Brown said the 28-year-old continues to keep his head high.

“Straight pro,” he said. “Doesn’t talk about it. Doesn’t mention it. Comes out has fun with it. Enjoys being around his teammates. That’s the kind of guys you need.”

As Williams points out, Morris is set to make $1.2MM next season and count for $2.14MM against the cap. While that would seemingly make him expendable, Brown said he’d love to keep all of his players.

“You just don’t know from year to year what’s going to happen, so you try to keep as many great players around as you can and then the business takes over after that,” Brown said. “Obviously, we would like everybody to stay, but that’s not realistic. We’ve got to make sure we’re training everybody, and we’re covering all our bases, and let whatever happens happen.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFC…

  • Packers running back Jamaal Williams‘ four-year rookie contract includes a $565,992 signing bonus, and ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes that that’s the only guaranteed money in the deal. The fourth-rounder’s contract could be worth up to $2.96MM, and Williams is set to earn a base salary of $465K in 2017.
  • If he isn’t looking for a lucrative contract, then ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein believes free agent wideout Jeremy Maclin would be a logical fit for the Lions. The hypothetical acquisition would allow the team to roll a versatile three-wideout set that could include any combination of Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and/or tight end Eric Ebron. Rothstein also points to the relative experience among the team’s other wide receivers.
  • Panthers cornerback James Bradberry fractured his left wrist today and will be in a cast for the next six weeks, reports Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter). Head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion told Max Henson of Panthers.com that the defensive back could still participate in next week’s minicamp, and he’s expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp. The 2016 second-round pick started 13 games for the Panthers last season, compiling 59 tackles and two interceptions.
  • Former Minnesota Gophers linebacker Jack Lynn is “close” to signing with the Falcons, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter). The four-year player finished his collegiate career with 77 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 13 games.