24 - 3 reasons why Jonathan Williams' game can take a big leap forward

Posted Jul 4, 2017

Jonathan Williams could prove to be a pretty important offensive piece for the Bills this fall.

Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We’ll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 27th and the Sept. 10th opener at New Era Field against the New York Jets. 

The Bills drafted Jonathan Williams in the fifth round in 2016. The running back fell down draft boards due to a foot injury that sidelined him during his senior year at Arkansas. Considered a value pick, the underrated back showed off his powerful, one cut running style last season. However, Williams’ place on the depth chart, behind one of the best backfield tandems in the NFL, limited the rookie to 27 rushing attempts. With a year of experience, and the departure of Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams has the opportunity to take a big step this season. Here are some of the main reasons why. 

Experience from rookie season
After battling through a foot injury during his senior year of college, Williams was forced to play catch-up during last offseason.

The rookie running back was used sparingly, only seeing action in seven games last season. These games could prove to be invaluable as Williams tries to adjust to the speed and intensity of the NFL.             

“The experience, that’s the biggest thing,” said Williams. “Coming off a season where I missed my senior year in college and then to go to the top level here it was fast-paced…I had a year to adjust and learn from a lot of good guys in that locker room.”

With his experience from last season, Williams has been able to learn what parts of his game he needs to improve if he wants a bigger role in the Bills’ offense. One of those areas is certainly ball security. In his limited game time last season, Williams fumbled the ball twice.

“Before every rep where I know it’s a run play called or a pass play where I could get the ball, just in my head I’m thinking, ball security high and tight and put two hands on it in traffic,” said Williams. “That ball is everybody’s money out there. I’ve made a conscious effort to work on my ball positioning.”

Learning from last season will be vital if Williams wants to contend for a more prominent role in the Bills’ offense. 

Versatility fits scheme
Even with the addition of new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, the Bills’ offensive attack will look quite similar to that of last season’s. The Bills offense has been one of the premier rushing attacks in the NFL, as it totaled 2,630 rushing yards last season.

“There are going to be some bad-weather games where you have to run the ball well,” said Dennison, on his offensive philosophy. “That’s just all there is to it, and I think we will. I have confidence in our system.”

The Bills will continue to deploy a zone blocking running system under Dennison. The running attack relies on athletic offensive linemen who can pull effectively to stretch the opponent’s defense. This system is best utilized by running backs who can put their foot in the ground and make a quick downfield cut.  

“There’s a lot of room for you to use your instincts,” said Williams. “It’s that stretch, one step, downhill cut and I think that fits my game just because that’s the type of back I am. A lot of people think I’m a big bruiser, but I feel I’m more of a slasher and I feel like slashing fits this offense.”

Major opportunity
The departure of Gillislee gives Williams the chance to thrive in one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. Williams acknowledged that when Gillislee left, he realized that he had a major opportunity to contribute this season.So far, the second-year running back has taken advantage of his increased role. Williams saw time as the number one running back during minicamp, as LeSean McCoy was sidelined due to illness. With those increased reps at practice, Williams impressed the coaching staff.

“Jonathan Williams has done a nice job and he’s taken advantage of the opportunities that he’s been given, and that’s the important part of this,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “He’s a second-year player and his development will be key to our success here moving forward.”

McDermott spoke glowingly about Williams after the conclusion of minicamp. He highlighted Williams’ raw ability, which was evident during his time at Arkansas. McDermott also complimented the young running back on his knowledge of the playbook and efforts to improve his ball security.

Above all, Williams is simply excited to compete.

“I had already had in my mind that coming into this offseason I was going to do everything I could to help this team out as much as possible,” he said.