If you were to have tabbed an over/under for how many snaps Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams was going to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, 20 would have been a comfortable number to foster some bets. And ultimately, the hypothetical over would have cashed in since he played 28 snaps (47 percent of the Lions' offensive snaps)
Willlams finished with two catches for two yards. Both were behind the line of scrimmage, the first for minus-two yards and the other for a positive gain of four. He had one bad drop, when an on-the-money pass from Jared Goff went through his hands with a Panthers' linebacker lurking in the middle of the field.
Drops have been a thing early in Williams' NFL career, from his limited action last season, to offseason work this year, etc. It's becoming something that may keep him off the field if it continues, which he seemed to recognize by catching 100 passes a day off his JUGS machine while he was away from the team suspended.
Lions' fans who had unrealistic visions of Williams being an instant difference maker in his season debut were left disappointed.
Dan Campbell happy with Jameson Williams' season debut
As expected based on what he said Williams' snap load and expectations would be in his season debut, Lions' head coach Dan Campbell was optimistic after the game (via Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News).
"This is his first one back and really last week was his first practice since he was out of the building, and so, man, I just wanted to get him back on the grass,” Campbell said. “Get him lined up, get him some runs, we gave him a couple opportunities in the pass game and now we just grow from there."
"So this is all I expected, let’s just get him acclimated back in and he’ll get a few more plays next week and we’ll just continue to let him grow. … He showed up on a couple of those runs in there.”
A Lions' wide receiver who is unable or unwilling to block in the run game simply won't get on the field very much. So Campbell's praise of his work there is a good sign for Williams. Pro Football Focus tabbed him with 15 routes run on his 28 snaps, with the aforementioned three targets.
The history of young player usage under Campbell says Williams will continue to be eased into action until he shows he can handle more and be trusted. That may mean 30 snaps against the Buccaneers in Week 6, but likely not a whole lot more than that if Amon-Ra St. Brown is able to play.
Ideally, Williams will show some noticeable progress and make a noticeable difference before this season is over, and do it sooner rather than later. But that's still a big question, and patience is the only thing that makes sense to have-from the team (as conveyed by Campbell) right down to Lions' fans.