ALLEN PARK -- In a move that has generated much fanfare, the Lions acquired running back Keiland Williams through waivers after he was released by the Washington Redskins.
Some are touting Williams as the team’s replacement to Mikel Leshoure – an easily drawn comparison due to their similar size.
Williams said his preferred playing weight is between 220 and 225 pounds while Leshoure is listed at 227 pounds. The two are also very close in height.
But while both run with power, these are not the same back.
The biggest difference is decision making and vision. Leshoure demonstrated this trait early in training camp and throughout his collegiate career. He quickly finds the hole on the offensive line and accelerates through it. Williams does not attack the hole as quickly and has a tendency to take the ball outside the tackle at times.
Williams – who signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent out of LSU last year – spent training camp working at fullback for the Redskins. A role he will not play for the Lions.
"Probably not really going to be in the mix at fullback for us,” said coach Jim Schwartz. “(He’s) a bigger runner who was very productive in a role last year for the Redskins. Scored some touchdowns, caught a lot of passes, played on third down… We see him as a runner.”
Williams shares the same vision of himself, although he is flexible to the team’s needs.
"At the end of the day I’m going to do what it takes, whatever the team needs me to do,” said Williams. “But I feel like I am a running back and I feel like I can contribute more as a running back so I’m happy they are actually giving me the opportunity to come here and carry the ball.”
How much Williams carries the ball remains to be seen. With three running backs currently ahead of him – both in terms of depth chart positioning and understanding of the offense – the 25 year old has some work to do before getting on the field.
Working in his favor are his great pass protection skills and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield making him an option to play on third down.
Still, he cannot match the speed of starter Jahvid Best, the vision and decision making of Maurice Morris or the experience of Jerome Harrison.
Don’t expect much from Williams early in the season, as the second year pro gets acclimated to his teammates and to the offense. However, should injuries create an opportunity, Williams wants to show he is not just a short-yardage runner.
"You carry a certain label,” said Williams. “But it's up to me to prove to people that I can do other things and that's what I plan to do. Show people I'm also an outside runner that can take it the distance.”
If you are expecting Williams to push for the bulk of carries – or even the bulk of short-yardage and goal-line carries – you may end up disappointed. However, Williams does offer backfield depth while adding a slightly different skill set to the unit.
One thing is clear, though, the excitement some fans have towards the addition to the team is shared by Williams himself.
“I'm excited….” Said Williams. “I’m happy to be on board."
To make room on the roster for Williams, the Lions dumped former sixth-round pick and running back Aaron Brown, along with center Chris Morris, while also plucking guard Jacques McClendon from waivers.
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