The Lions need to lean on Jamaal Williams in the latter half of the season.
In his absence last week, the Lions put up the second-fewest total rushing yards as a team all season, 57 yards. The lowest total rushing yards occurred during week six as they played host to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Against those Bengals, the Lions’ offense generated a combined total of 36 rushing yards, 24 yards off of 13 carries by D’Andre Swift, 11 yards on four carries from Williams, and a one-yard scramble by Jared Goff.
Both times the Lions failed to gain more than 60 yards on the ground, total rushes were season lows of 18. In both games, Williams had less than four rushes. The run game is the bloodline of this offense, and Williams is the heart. Williams plays with a tenacity and energy that shows up on and off the field.
Let’s take a look at two signature Williams runs.
Rely on the run to help your mediocre pass offense.
Rely on the run to allow your big men to maul the other side.
Rely on the run to get your side pumped the heck up.
— Belal Halaweh (@HalawehBelal) October 26, 2021
The first is on the road against the Los Angeles Rams, nearing the end of the first quarter. Lions are in 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends) and running to the strong side of the line. Williams runs down the line waiting for Brock Wright to move off his double team and block the edge containing defender, in this case, Robert Rochell (33). Williams cuts inside of Wright’s block and races upfield.
Linebacker Troy Reeder shuffles down the line and is in a position to tackle Williams as he is cutting upfield. Williams however had other ideas, stiff-arming Reed to the ground and running through his attempt to trip him up.
William’s thirst for stiff-arming defenders wasn’t satiated with Reeder as he tried to line up his left palm and Jordan Fuller’s helmet to complete a two-piece combo on the run. Fuller is able to tackle Williams out of bounds but that doesn’t take away from Williams’ joy as he shows his teammates on the sideline just how fired up he was about that run.
Williams provides a spark for a team that has only had 19 offensive snaps with a lead. Those coming against the Rams when the Lions successfully deployed an onside kick after the opening possession touchdown, scoring on back-to-back possessions.
In comparison, the Lions have run 403 snaps while trailing, and 94 when tied. These Lions rarely have anything to shout home about. Yet week in and week out, Williams comes prepared with a level of energy that is unmatched by any teammate, unphased by the win-loss columns or the scoreboard.
Look at Vatai pulling on this play, just swallows up the edge. Great block by Hockenson as well.
— Belal Halaweh (@HalawehBelal) September 28, 2021
Week three at home against the Baltimore Ravens. This second play occurred with approximately five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the game tied at zero.
Williams is assisted with some great blocking by T.J. Hockenson and a pulling Halapoulivaati Vaitai on this play but still displays some good old rumbling bumbling stumbling football. Lions are in 12 personnel running to the weak side of the line with two pulling blockers from the strong side. Vaitai does a great job of swallowing up the edge (98), opening up a lane for Hockenson and Williams to run through.
Williams aids Hockenson with the block on Calais Cambell as he bounces off of the tackle attempt and gains another ten yards and the first down. Williams even cleanly bounces off of Anthony Averett’s lazy tackle attempt as Williams is being wrapped up by DeShon Elliott. After the run, Williams pops up and exudes his personality and infectious energy with his first down celebration.
Cause for celebration doesn’t come often for these winless Lions. These players are often in and will continue to be in moments where the probability of victory is slim. If they’re not playing for a victory, what are they playing for? Pride. Pride in your craft. Pride in never quitting.
The Lions’ offensive strengths come from dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball. They have two capable backs in D’Andre Swift and Williams, but this offense gains traction off of Williams’s hard-nosed downfield running.
His smashmouth style of play and tenacious energy should be the foundation for everything this team plans to accomplish for the rest of the season. It’s clear what happens when the Lions don’t feed Williams.
The rushing game gets stifled and too much of the load gets put on Goff and an unproven wide receiver room, which rarely results in points scored. A vibrant run game keeps your defense rested, and opens up the passing game, which is vital for this pass offense.
The Lions may not win a lot if any, games for the remainder of the season. However, what they can do is continue to develop this run game, even when down scores late in the game. Deploy more than 22 personnel to allow Swift and Williams to be on the field at the same time while keeping the line strong. Take the pressure off of Goff and these receivers. Run the dang ball.
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