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O'HARA: Williams pleased with 'pretty productive' debut

As rookie linebacker Antwione Williams continues on an upward trend in training camp, he can look back at how being left out of the NFL Combine in February helped him set standards to meet in his own personal workouts for the scouts.

Williams had an impressive showing at Georgia Southern's pro day on April 6. He stood out in two drills that are important in measuring a linebacker's ability. At 6-3 and 240 pounds, Williams had 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and a 35-inch vertical jump.

By comparison, of the 39 linebackers who participated in drills at the Combine, only two had more than 23 reps in the bench press, and only three had a higher vertical jump.

Not all 39 linebackers were tested in both drills, but Williams' pro day workout combined with his performance in his senior year at Georgia Southern impressed the Lions enough to draft him in the fifth round.

Williams has made steady progress from the start of rookie camp in May through Friday night's preseason opener in Pittsburgh.

Williams played the most snaps of any Lions' defender in the victory over Pittsburgh. He played 34 snaps and responded with a team-high five tackles -- three solo tackles and two assists. He also played 11 snaps on special teams.

In a meaningless preseason game, it meant something to Williams to see his name at the top of the tackle chart.

"It felt good going in there early, going in in the second quarter," Williams said after Tuesday's practice. "I played against their twos (second unit). Some of their starters were still in the game. I was able to go in, compete and play pretty well.

"I was pretty productive."

At this stage, looking back at a Combine snub is only a reference point for Williams for what he had to overcome to get his opportunity. However, the fact that Williams used his pro day workout to show how he measured up athletically compared to what other linebackers did at the Combine shows how seriously he took performing for the scouts.

"I knew what I had to hit," he said. "The whole combine experience, I didn't really tune into it. At a certain point, your film is what you put out there. That describes if you're a good player, not numbers."

The Lions' didn't judge Williams only on his pro day workout. His film at Georgia Southern was impressive, particularly his senior year. He had 105 total tackles with 10.5 of them for losses. He also had 4.5 sacks, three pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

Williams has been used in a lot of situations to judge where he might fit in the Lions' defensive scheme. With DeAndre Levy out of practice until Tuesday, Williams has been used on the weak side and strong side, and he was part of the No. 1 unit in the goal line defense in Monday's practice.

"I think as you watch him, you can see he's a heavy-handed guy," said head coach Jim Caldwell. "He learns rapidly. He's got a systematic approach to learning it appears, because he learns pretty quickly.

"With enough experience, and seeing different looks and things that give the guys at that position some problems, we'll see how he progresses."

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