What to Expect From RB Jamaal Williams in Year 1

The Packers running backs underwent the most significant transition of any position group this offseason. Only Ty Montgomery will return from last year’s group, and he began last season as a wide receiver.

One of the three running backs the Packers drafted last month, Jamaal Williams, seems to be first in line to challenge Montgomery for touches and playing time. Williams, BYU’s all-time leading rusher, was drafted in the fourth round.

What can we expect from him in his rookie season? Here’s what Jon and Gary think.

Jon says: A pro-ready runner in a limited role

Mike McCarthy doesn’t always practice what he preaches on running backs. He loves personnel diversity and getting different groupings of players on the field, but he doesn’t always do so well at getting different running backs opportunities. As often as not, one back ends up taking the lion’s share of the carries.

There’s a method to this idea: if a back can’t protect Aaron Rodgers, what difference does it make if he can carry the ball well? Rodgers is the straw that stirs the drink, no matter who’s running the ball. If a running back can’t keep him healthy, he has no value, full stop.

This could limit opportunities for Williams, but if he can find his way onto the field, he should show up as the most pro ready of the Packers’ recently acquired running backs. He has the best size and speed combination of the bunch, and he fits into the one cut zone blocking scheme well. However limited he may be, he should show a good foundation this season.

Gary says: McCarthy’s play calling and other rookies will limit opportunities

There are two major factors keeping Jamaal Williams from the Packers’ starting running back job: how head coach Mike McCarthy substitutes players and the number of fresh faces in the building.

First, McCarthy regularly sticks with a personnel group for a series at a time. The Packers prefer to run a no-huddle, limited substitution package when on offense to give Aaron Rodgers more flexibility at the line of scrimmage to exploit matchups and catch defenders offsides or with an extra man on the field.

If the series where Williams is called upon to perform finish three-and-out, it’s tough luck for the rookie back.

Second, Williams is one of three backs the Packers drafted. Aaron Jones, selected in the fifth round from UTEP, and Devante Mays, selected in the seventh round from Utah State, both figure to see extended opportunities in the preseason alongside undrafted rookie free agents Will Stanback and Kalif Phillips.

If one of those four proves to be better than expected, it will certainly limit Williams’ opportunity.