We have seen wide receiver Jameson Williams steadily improve throughout the season.
It started with slowly building up reps and responsibility following his return from a gambling suspension that cost him the first four games of the season. Then the big-play production became more prevalent. Now and maybe most importantly, Williams is coming off a game last week in which he was consistently part of the passing game, catching a season-high four receptions with a couple of those being tough plays and key grabs to sustain scoring drives.
"I'm looking forward to more (catches), but it was cool being involved and we got a good win," Williams said Thursday. "Played good. We scored 40 points. It was a good game."
Last week's 42-17 win over Denver is a great example of what this offense can look like when all its parts are humming, including Williams. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had a 100-yard game, running back Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 100 yards with two total touchdowns as the Lions ran for 185 yards in the contest, tight end Sam LaPorta had three touchdowns, and wide receiver Josh Reynolds made some key grabs.
Williams' game doesn't jump out of the stat book with four receptions for 47 yards (11.8 avg.), but there were some contested catches in there and a tough catch along the sideline, plus a run after the catch that showed just how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands. Only St. Brown played more snaps than him among the receivers. That's important to note.
"I feel like it's just a part of life, you have to grow up," Williams said of how he and his game have matured over the course of the season to him being a bigger part of the offense down the stretch.
"I feel like that's just what had to be done. Just grew up. Just had to do some things different from what I was doing. Just had to change a lot of things. I don't really want to get into those types of things, I just had to change some things and move forward."
Detroit's offense has certainly benefitted from the changes. Last week was a great example of this team being tough to stop when everyone is rolling. They'll be looking for a similar performance this week in Minnesota and it could lead to the team's first division title in 30 years.
LaPorta has already complied one of the best seasons by a rookie tight end and will look to continue making history this week in Minnesota.
With four receptions Sunday, he would pass Jeremy Shockey (74 receptions in 2002) for the second most receptions by a rookie tight end in NFL history. Only Keith Jackson (81 in 1988) has more.
LaPorta has 71 receptions for 758 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He is the first rookie tight end in NFL history to produce at least 70 receptions, 750 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in a season.
MELIFONWU STEPS UP
Third-year safety Ifeatu Melifonwu was one of the defensive MVPs in Detroit's 42-17 win over Denver last week. In just his second start this season, Melifonwu had eight tackles (five solo), two quarterback hits, two passes defended, a sack, a forced fumble and one special teams tackle.
"If you guys know my background when it comes to safeties, I'm a good fan of safeties that have a corner background," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said Thursday. "That's one of the reasons he's here because he's able to cover like we need to like a corner, but he is tough enough and physical enough as a safety to get down in the box and go make plays."
For the first time in his career Melifonwu has been healthy for a long stretch, playing in every game for the Lions this season, and with time on task Glenn says we're starting to see what he's capable of.
"One of Iffy's biggest issues was him being healthy for the whole time and then making that transition, man that's not an easy transition because he did come in as a corner, so now he understands exactly what we're looking for in the safeties," Glenn said. "And his communication, that's what's really improved and he's already a smart guy. The thing is, he still needs time on task. It's just, man he went out there and he really showed what he can do last week and I'm expecting him to continue to grow."
- The Lions released offensive lineman Michael Schofield from the practice squad and signed cornerback Craig James to the practice squad.