Detroit Lions: Why signing Jonathan Williams wasn’t necessary

Jonathan Williams, Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Jonathan Williams, Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Jonathan Williams signed with the Detroit Lions this week. But was it necessary?

On Monday, the Detroit Lions signed free agent running back Jonathan Williams and invited him to training camp. Last season with the Colts, he appeared in nine games where he rushed for 235 yards on 49 attempts for an average of 4.8 yards a run while finding the endzone once.

Williams’ longest run was for 48 yards and got his team 13 first downs. He also contributed little in the passing attack catching five passes for 59 yards. In his career, he’s rushed for 329 yards on 79 tries, averaging 4.2 yards a run with two touchdowns and 19 first downs.

Since coming into the league in 2016, Williams has been apart of three different teams, the Buffalo Bills (2016), New Orleans Saints (2017) and the Colts (2018-2019). He didn’t appear in a single game in a Saints uniform.

If Williams were to make the Lions’ final roster out of training camp, this would be his fourth team in five-years. But does he really have a chance to do so?

The Lions already have their starting backfield that consists of running backs D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. Those two are expected to share touches to start off the season and won’t be threatened by any other running back on the team for the starting job.

Behind them on the depth chart is running backs Bo Scarbrough and rookie Jason Huntley. When Johnson went down with an injury last season, Scarbrough stepped in and did a magnificent job as the Lions’ primary option in the backfield. In six games, he rushed for 377 yards for an average of 4.2 yards a run with a touchdown. His strong performance over the final games of 2019 has given him a spot as the third-string running back on the team.

Jason Huntley, who was one of two Lions fifth-round draft picks, may not see a ton of playing time but was drafted for depth purposes for the running back position. Scouts have raved about his speed and can surprisingly be a solid pass-catching option if he’s on the field as he was the only player at his position that was drafted to exceed 1,000 receiving yards at the college level.

The Lions have four solid running backs but that’s also not mentioning Wes Hills and Ty Johnson. Both are vying for spots on the team as well.

Bringing in Williams for competition is good as it would motivate guys like the two running backs mentioned above to push harder for a spot on the team. Is Williams really that much better though to overtake Ty Johnson who rushed for 273 yards in his rookie season? Johnson is also three years younger than Williams is.

One reason why Williams may have been brought is due to the injuries the Lions backfield currently has. Both Swift and Scarbrough are dealing with lingering issues and we all know that Kerryon Johnson can’t be relied on to say healthy and on the field. Despite the pains and bruises, Swift and Scarbrough should be ready for Week 1.

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Bringing in Jonathan Williams to training camp is fine, but he shouldn’t be overtaking a guy like Ty Johnson on the Detroit Lions’ roster. Perhaps, the Lions can stash him on the practice squad in case multiple running backs get hurt again during the season.