It was pretty early on in Detroit Lions training camp practice Wednesday during a 7-on-7 period when quarterback Jared Goff dropped back, looked right and fired a high-arching deep pass down the right sideline.
On the other end was second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams, whose elite speed had allowed him to gain about five yards of separation from veteran cornerback Cam Sutton. Goff identified Williams having a step right away and threw the ball quickly enough and to the outside to drop it right into Williams' arms before defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson could come over and make a play from the deep safety spot.
That play Wednesday is one of the big reasons why the Lions are so excited about Williams' potential and his fit in Ben Johnson's offense. We can count the players with his kind of game-breaking speed in this league on one hand. He changes the way defenses have to play the Lions when he's in the game.
But Williams isn't a naturally gifted pass catcher, and he needs to continue to refine his route running. Those things are correctable. He can be taught to be more effective in those areas. It's why Johnson continues to put a lot on Williams' plate during training camp practices because there's a lot to be gained before Williams has to serve his six-game suspension to begin the regular season.
"I told him this back in the spring, you want to feel like by the end of camp man, there's a level of polish," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Williams on Wednesday. "Man, the splits, the route depth. You want to begin to feel like there's a lot of polish to detail and that he has this pretty good rapport with (Jared) Goff by the time he leaves because I think if we can get there, I don't think it will take very long to pick it back once he comes back.
"I go back to this – and it's not an excuse, but he hasn't practiced. I mean he didn't practice last year. He came in during the year and we kind of had a couple plays for him here and there. This is his first significant time to get – he was hurt last week. So, man, the longer can keep him on the field and just keep working through these things, he'll get better, but I would say that's the answer."
The play down the right sideline was Williams' highlight Wednesday, but I thought he had a very strong practice overall with a few nice catches. The Lions are only a week away from joint practices with the Giants and their first preseason game Aug. 11, where Williams is expected to get significant playing time.
"We're going to douse him with a ton of game reps," Campbell said. "He needs that. As he does practice, but man, and I'm telling you, as with anybody, the more reps he gets, the more time on task, the more consecutive practices and reps he can put together, he'll just grow. I really believe that. And I do believe he wants it. I do believe he wants to get better. So, he'll grind through this and let's see where we can go with it."
Nine practices into training camp and the competition between Riley Patterson and Parker Romo to be Detroit's place kicker still seems to be neck and neck. In fact, looking back over my notes of the first nine practices, their performance has been nearly identical. I have Patterson going 20-for-25 in live field goal periods and some situational kicks. I have Romo at 21-for-25.
"Yeah, it's been good. We all know that Riley there's a steadiness about him, and I would say this about Riley, one of the things that we've noticed that's really shown up from two years ago when we kind of parted ways is he has a stronger leg as it pertains to kickoffs," Campbell said of the competition. "Like his kickoffs are much better. He's getting more hang time; he's getting more depth. He's been pretty steady on field goals, so it's good.
"And then Romo, as we know, man he has a massive leg and his will always be just a little bit of working on that accuracy and control. Which, we kind of know that. It's about just competing and developing and getting a little bit better, but we like those two guys, we do."
Patterson said after practice Wednesday that he was really disappointed last year when he was beat out by Austin Seibert for the job in camp. He said at the time he hoped he'd get a second chance in Detroit, and here it is.
"Jacksonville was such a blessing and I met so many great people and had success there. Went to the playoffs, made a game-winning kick and it was really awesome, and I loved it," he said. "But I am really happy to be back here, man. Lot of great people and a really good team."
View photos from Day 8 of Detroit Lions training camp on Monday July 31, 2023.
A low hit by cornerback Khalil Dorsey on tight end Shane Zylstra's plant leg Monday during practice likely ended Zylstra's 2023 season.
"Honestly, it shouldn't have happened," Campbell said. "No, we're not OK with that, and it's been addressed, so. These things happen. The physicality of the game, the pads, but that was preventable. That's not what we do.
"So, and believe me, Khalil (Dorsey) feels awful too. We get that, but we have to take care of each other. We still have to be physical, we have to work each, we have to compete, but we still have to take care of each other. So that was – we talked about it, and we move on."
- Right tackle Penei Sewell was back at practice after missing a few days working through the NFL's return-to-play concussion protocol.
- The team placed cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on the Acitve/PUP list. They also waived tight end Derrick Deese Jr. and signed tight ends Darrell Daniels and Daniel Helm.