Despite a looming suspension, the 2023 offseason remains crucial for Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams after missing most of his rookie campaign due to an ACL tear.
Following the announcement of the wideout's six-game suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy, Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El, a former nine-year pro, said mentoring Williams off the field has become more vital than keeping the young wideout on track on the gridiron.
"I don't have to motivate him much when it comes to ball. He loves the game and wants to be better and works at it," Randle El told Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News. "But the encouragement part, with all that's going on … it's just, 'Hey, keep doing what you're doing; stay at it, in terms of working hard. This is just another stumbling block that, again, you'll come out stronger on the other side.'
"Those types of things, just encouraging him from that standpoint. He gets it, he understands it, and it will be (good) for him once we do get back and get going, as it relates into the season and the preseason."
The Lions traded up in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft to select Williams No. 12 overall, despite knowing his first season would be mostly a wash. The 22-year-old didn't appear in a game until December and caught a single pass for a 41-yard TD in six contests.
Randel El noted that last year Williams got "a lot of mental reps," but it's the physical ones this offseason that will help him hit the ground running once the suspension ends.
"It's just a matter of him being on the field over and over again. Man, that's part of having that offseason, and that's why you always want a young guy to have the offseason to just be able to get ready for the season," Randle El said. "Training camp is coming up. Again, another opportunity on the field, being with the quarterbacks, hearing the calls, all those different things that need to take place over and over again. You can see he's getting it."
If the Lions are to end their six-year postseason drought, they'll need Williams to play a significant role once he returns to the offense in Week 7. The wideout's speed and vertical ability bring a different dimension to the offense than anyone else on the roster.
Thus far, Williams' pro career has been a projection of talent. A franchise that has seen its share of highly drafted wideouts wash out early in their careers, Detroit needs to see that promise from Williams turn into production when he eventually begins his season.