Packers: Look for Jamaal Williams to Make More Noise in Passing Game

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 15: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers reacts in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on December 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 15: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers reacts in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on December 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Jamaal Williams has been a very reliable pass-catcher for the Green Bay Packers, but he’s poised to make a bigger impact in 2020.

Perhaps lost in Aaron Jones’ 2019 season and the selection of A.J. Dillon in the second round of this year’s draft is the steadiness that Jamaal Wiliams provides at the running back position for the Green Bay Packers.

By Pro Football Focus’ metrics, he is one of the best pass-blocking backs in football, on the ground he’s going to pick up those hard-earned yards, and in the passing game, Williams has turned into an incredibly reliable target with a nose for the end zone.

However, Williams’ effectiveness in the passing game wasn’t always a major part of his skill-set. During his final season at BYU, he would total only seven receptions. In fact, in Pro Football Focus’ final scouting report on Williams in the “Biggest Concerns” category, they listed the little experience that he had as a receiver out of the backfield.

But during Williams’ first three seasons in Green Bay, he has ended up playing a big role in the passing game, even getting more targets than Aaron Jones did in 2017 and 2018. Over his career, Williams has caught 94 of his 113 targets, which is an excellent catch rate of 83.2 percent. He’s also totaled 735 yards and seven touchdowns.

This past season, Aaron Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 125.4 when targeting Williams, and his five receiving touchdowns were tied for the most on the team with Davante Adams. Not to mention that Williams has only one drop over the last two years.

Although uber-reliable, if there’s one part of Williams’ game that could improve, it is his playmaking ability. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he has averaged just 7.2 yards per catch, and the 6.5 yards per catch he posted in 2019 ranked 40th out of the 46 qualified running backs according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

So to help remedy that, Williams has been hard at work this offseason with his trainer Luke Neal to help refine his technique and also working on putting himself in a better position as he catches the ball to create more yards after the catch. Here is what Neal told Jimmy Christensen of Packer Report about Williams’ progress this summer:

"“We are not talking about a guy who can go out and just catch the ball, but now he understands the concepts of placing his body in a position away from the defender while putting the ball in a position of safety depending on which sideline you are on and where the defenders are. He is now one whole athlete who can run the ball, catch the ball, and have speed. He has gotten faster. He is faster.”"

While there has been some speculation that Williams could be cut before Week 1 with the addition of Dillon, earlier this offseason, Matt LaFleur mentioned how he’d love to have three backs to use regularly in 2020. But you can’t just be any back to be apart of the LaFleur offense; you need to be versatile as well.

In the LaFleur offense this season, we are going to see more 21 (two running backs, one tight end) and 22 (two running backs, two tight ends) personnel with the running backs lining up in the backfield, inline, out wide, and in the slot.

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We know Williams is an outstanding pass-blocker, that he can carry the rock when called upon, and he’s shown that he has positional versatility as well, lining up all over the formation as is required. Over the last two years, Williams has taken 67 snaps from either out wide, in the slot, or inline.

Knowing that he will likely be seeing even more time in a receiver-like role this season, Williams and Neal have also been diligently working on his route running. And it appears to be paying off:

"“He looks like a route runner now. We will go out and throw and people will say, ‘Wow, he runs routes like a receiver.’”"

Neal would go on to add:

"“You can line Jamaal Williams up right now as a receiver in the NFL and he’ll be productive. He will get off the line of scrimmage, off the press, and run through double-triple move route no problem. Jamaal Williams can play receiver right now in the NFL. He knows how to stack DBs and get them off him. If the line him up on the inside as the slot receiver it’s over. If I see a linebacker on him, I’ll be smiling from ear to ear because I already know what the outcome is going to be.”"

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Jones is still going to be the focal point of the running back position, and Dillon is going to take some carries away from Williams; they didn’t draft him in the second round to sit on the sidelines. But in this offense, the running backs play a very important role in the passing game, and we know how reliable Williams is as a pass-catcher. Now, he’s refined his route running, and he will be in a better position to make plays after the catch.

So don’t write off Williams just yet, especially in the passing game.