Detroit Lions bolster rushing attack after signing Jonathan Williams

(Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions recently signed former Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Williams.  Where will he fit in?  Who may fall out of favor?

The Detroit Lions immediately waived running back Wes Hills to make room for Jonathan Williams.  Hills wasn’t expected to earn a spot on the teams 53-man roster anyhow.  But the addition of Williams will certainly put others on notice.

The Buffalo Bills had initially drafted Williams in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.  After bouncing around between the Bills, Saints, and Broncos, the former standout with the Arkansas Razorbacks found some success replacing injured starter Marlon Mack last season with the Colts.

Williams, a power-rusher galloped for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games running behind one of the leagues’ best offensive lines for the Colts last season.  The Colts recently drafted a sensational rookie back in Jonathan Taylor who, in all likelihood, will emerge as the teams’ lead back.  It’s apparent general manager Chris Ballard felt that Williams would be unable to beat out Jordan Wilkins or Nyheim Hines for a depth role in 2020 with the Colts.

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The Detroit Lions will likely allow Williams to compete with Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson for one of the final depth running back roles with the organization in 2020.  Scarbrough is a monster of a man and enjoyed plenty of success running behind Detroit’s lackluster offensive line last season. Still, both he and Ty Johnson should feel the most pressure from the addition of Williams.

The 25-year old Williams averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season compiling 235 yards on 49 totes scoring one touchdown.  Williams is not a receiving threat but efficiently produced when called upon, making just five receptions totaling 59 yards last year.

Scarbrough made 89 carries in five starts for the Lions last season, totaling 377 yards and a touchdown.  Scarbrough averaged 4.2 yards per carry but which is extremely impressive considering the majority of his carries started with some form of contact in the backfield.  The former Alabama runner totaled a whopping 194 of his 377 yards after contact.  He’s a player I hope the Lions decide to keep.  I really feel like Scarbrough can be a viable short-yardage back who will complement both Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift nicely, but he will need to outperform Williams from here on out to retain his job.

Ty Johnson is another runner that is firmly on the bubble.  Johnson played second fiddle to Scarbrough despite being on the active roster from the start of the 2019 season.  Johnson averaged 4.3 yards per carry totaling 273 rushing yards on 63 carries in his rookie season.  One thing Johnson does better than both Williams and Scarbrough is catching the football.  He made 24 grabs last season totaling 109 yards.

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Johnson’s receiving abilities may be just enough to keep him around for another season.  It will be enjoyable to track the depth runners on this roster through training camp.