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Which of the Williams Boys Will Get the Nod at Starting RB?

In my last post, I mentioned that in acquiring Dexter Williams in the sixth round, the Packers filled a roster need as well as acquiring a player with great potential. As you might have noticed, I try (but often fail) to keep posts from being excessively long, so this one is essentially a continuation of the previous one (Packers Welcome a Third Member of the Fighting Irish to the Team).

Right off the bat, I think Green Bay got a steal when they chose Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams in the middle of the sixth round. Though he was only around the fifteenth running back taken, he has more potential than many of those who went ahead of him.

Oct 6, 2018; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Dexter Williams (2) runs past Virginia Tech Hokies defender Rico Kearney (38) for a second half touch down at Lane Stadium. Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

More to the point, he’s got infinitely more potential than Jamaal Williams, the guy who starts out ahead of him on the depth chart. Jamaal is a likeable guy, a hard worker, and he’s good at ball security. His blocking has gotten lots of praise, and he’s shown himself to be above average as a receiver. So what’s the problem?

The problem is he’s not just mediocre or average when it comes to athleticism, he’s seriously subpar. His dash speed (4.59) is 39th percentile; 3-cone drill and 20 yard shuttles (agility and burst indicators) are 16th and 6th; his vertical jump is 7th; his only impressive measurable trait is his broad jump, which ranked him in the 81st percentile. Many NFL players can compensate for one athletic weakness by excelling in other areas, but Jamaal is a substandard athlete across the board.

This contention is borne out by his NFL stats. Thanks to Coach McCarthy, he has an ample sampling over two years: 274 carries and 52 pass receptions. In that time, he’s only averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Blame can hardly be placed on his blockers, because his running mate, Aaron Jones, has averaged 5.5 yards per carry running behind those same linemen, and running much the same plays.

If we know anything about the new head coach, it’s that Matt LaFleur believes in setting up the pass with a strong run game. He aims to have lots of downs being second and four or third and one or two, so that he’s got the option to run or pass on nearly every play. With Jamaal, you get a steady diet of second and eight or third and five.

I like Jamaal, but I like him as the backup for Jones and Dexter Williams. I’ll go ahead and predict that by mid-season LaFleur, along with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and RBs coach Ben Sirmans, will also see it this way. Unlike the past, I think you’ll see the Packers’ new coaching staff recognize and reward players based on merit and production. I’m hoping Dexter is installed ahead of Jamaal even sooner, but that will depend on how soon he adjusts to the professional game and opposition.

Sure, I’m jumping the gun, the guy hasn’t played a professional down or even had a team practice. But the differences in athleticism between these two players is striking. Dexter is faster (4.57, 49th percentile); he’s far more agile (71st and 59th percentile in the two agility drills), and his two jump test percentiles (96th in the broad jump, 71st in the vertical) are also much better.

These test indicators translate on the playing field to one guy who can accelerate faster into an opening, and that ability alone accounts for much of the reason that Jamaal seldom rips off big yardage on his runs. The scouts describe Dexter as a one-cut runner – which is just what LaFleur looks for. Jamaal is solid and dependable – fine attributes for a backup. In stark contrast to watching film of Jamaal, you’ll see that initial burst on almost every play on Dexter’s highlight reels.

Packers RB Jamaal Williams

Sep 23, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (30) rushes the ball against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedEx Field. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Though Williams has a fairly thin college resume, that’s clearly because for three years he played behind a talented RB, not because he was marginal or slow to develop. Even with being suspended for the first four games of his senior year, Dexter had a terrific year in 2018, almost leading his team to an undefeated season. There was nothing fluky about Dexter averaging 111 yards per game, or averaging 6.3 yards per carry, in 2018.

Many will view the Williams’ pick as taking a risk. But isn’t the sixth round the ideal time to invest in a player with this guy’s upside? I’m not real concerned about a 20-year old making some stupid off-field mistakes. In fact, there are several feel-good stories out there about how much he’s matured as a result of his errors – for which he assumed full responsibility. We don’t know why he was suspended for four games, but Brian Gutekunst surely does, and he doesn’t view it as disqualifying.

Regardless of which of these two RBs emerges higher on the depth chart, I’m confident that the Packers are now solid at running back. It could be that Dexter will one day go down as a fantastic late-round gamble by Gutey and his scout team.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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17 Comments

  1. Evan Turner May 9, 2019

    .02 seconds faster at the combine is a pretty moot point

    Reply
    1. Howard May 9, 2019

      I agree Evan. I will say when you look at the competition BYU played in 2016 and the competition ND played in 2018, there is no question ND played against more athletic/better teams. Just look at the schedules. The one thing that jumps out at you is once Dexter makes his cut, and hits the second level Dexter many times pulled away from the opponents linebackers and DBs. Jamaal did not show that second gear against overall lesser competition as often as Dexter did against better competition.
      Both are one cut runners, but Dexter appears to have a better feel/vision for his blockers, and has a second gear that Jamaal may not have. It may be that Dexter just has better football (in pads) speed and instincts than Jamaal does. One thing for sure is Dexter is not the best pass protector. Dexter is willing but needs some work. I know who cares about pass pro from a RB? I would say almost every NFL coach unless their name is Mike Martz or Chip Kelly.

  2. Larry May 9, 2019

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dexter starting at RB after the first few games. He was a beast at ND.

    Reply
  3. Kato May 9, 2019

    Um am I missing something? Isn’t Aaron Jones still on the roster?

    Reply
    1. Howard May 9, 2019

      Aaron is still on the roster unless he gets suspended again. Hopefully Dexter and Jones don’t spend a lot of free time together. I think Rob is indicating that Rob believes Jones is the the #1 RB and the battle is for #2.
      Last year the Titans did have several games that the #1 and #2 RBs received about the same amount of carries. Some may think with MM gone that LaFleur will ride one RB such as the Rams have done. I don’t think that will be the case with LaFleur, based on his use of RBs last year with the Titans. The Rams overuse of Gurley during the majority of the season bit them in the ass in the playoffs.

  4. SCPKRFAN May 10, 2019

    Hopefully Green Bay doesn’t have premo smoke, or those two, Aaron and Dex will be “Up in Smoke”

    Reply
    1. Deepsky May 10, 2019

      I don’t think this article added anything we didn’t already know, I think we’ve been saying this for a while. Murphy’s putting his nose into things is probably even worse than when the Executive Committee made the final decision to draft Tony Mandarich over Barry Sanders, or when the Executive Committee told Starr he was no longer GM in 1980, but then never named a GM, resulting in the drafting of Rich Campbell and Bruce Clark.

      Like I said, because no one can fire Murphy, we are coming up to year 3 of a 15 to 20 year playoff drought. The biggest problem, like the Packer’s management in the past, is that Murphy knows little about football and relies on Ball who knows nothing.

    2. PF4L May 10, 2019

      “We’ve” been saying this for awhile……?

      lol…ok tiger

    3. Cheese May 10, 2019

      Lol, is this supposed to be some sort of breaking news? Because it has been blatantly obvious for a long time.

      I just about stopped after reading “He (Russ Ball) has managed the salary cap beautifully.” LOLOL. Was this written by Nick Perry and Randall Cobb?

      Gute is pretty much a neutered mouth piece that will do the talking for Russ Ball, because “nearly every football decision except team personnel goes through Ball’s office.”

      “It is understandable why Murphy did not remove Thompson from the general manager’s chair earlier than he did.” No, it is not understandable. It is completely unacceptable. “Thompson devoted his life to the job and demoting him would have been a difficult decision for Murphy.” As President of football operations it’s Murphy’s job to make difficult decisions and if an employee has health issues that keep him from doing his duties then he needs to be removed.

      Wow, this organization is such a clusterfuck. Newsflash right? I can’t stand the sight of Alfred E. Newman. Listening to him talk is even worse. He’s such a dopey snake in the grass. All his lies and micromanaging make me want to follow a different team or just stop watching football altogether until him and Ball are gone. If it wasn’t for a certain “once in a generation” QB I totally would.

    4. Cheese May 10, 2019

      “Sources said the executive committee seems to be made up of people who are just happy to be connected to the Packers and have stayed out of Murphy’s business. At board of director’s meetings, it’s rare to hear someone question the Packers operation or Murphy.”

      Sounds about right.

      Can we make it so that when we post a comment we can tell when there is a break in paragraphs so it doesn’t look like a giant block of text?

  5. PF4L May 10, 2019

    Non can fire Murphy?

    Interesting.

    Reply
    1. PF4L May 10, 2019

      * No one

    2. Deepsky May 11, 2019

      Not as far as I know. A big part of the problem in the 80s was that the Packers president was too old to manage and yet refused to retire. Theoretically the Board could vote him out, but the Packers have been in far worse shape for a decade and that’s never happened.

    3. Cheese May 11, 2019

      Seems to me it’s not because no one can, but because no one will.

    4. PF4L May 12, 2019

      ^^^^^^^

  6. EC May 20, 2019

    4.57 vs 4.59… They accelerate at precisely the same rate and have the exact same speed. 2/100 is NOTHING. Keep it real!!

    Reply

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