Category Archives: Jamaal Williams Jersey

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Jamaal Williams spent last week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where he talked with NFL hopefuls who played in the pre-draft all-star game.

They asked the Green Bay Packers rookie for advice on how to prepare for the draft and what it takes to make in the NFL.

But the running back, a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, couldn’t stop thinking about the advice he was given before he left Green Bay after the season. It was in his exit interviews with running backs coach Ben Sirmans and coach Mike McCarthy that the Packers’ leading rusher this past season learned what he needs to take his game to the next level.

“We were just in agreement that I’ve got to get my feet quicker and just get a little more speed happening and make sure that my knees are up,” Williams said in a phone interview during a break in the NFLPA-sponsored college all-star game near Los Angeles.

“So, I’m just going to be working on my lateral movements, speed, make sure I get my knees up, make sure my lower body’s a lot stronger.”

That will begin this week near Phoenix, where he plans to train with his uncle, Luke Neal, who also works with Cardinals linebacker Scooby Wright.

Yes, Williams rushed for a team-best 556 yards in a season in which he finally stopped the revolving door at running back. But he did so in grind-it-out fashion, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.

He knows that Ty Montgomery will return next season after wrist surgery that landed him on season-ending injured reserve and that fellow rookie Aaron Jones will be over his two knee injuries that cost him four games this season. That means that just because he was the Packers’ leading rusher in 2017 doesn’t mean he is guaranteed anything for 2018.

“I learned that on every team, no matter what, everybody’s a superstar, and you’ve got weapons,” Williams said. “Everybody’s got to touch the ball. There’s just so many superstars, especially on my team with Aaron [Rodgers], Davante [Adams], Jordy [Nelson], Randall [Cobb]. We just spread the ball around.

“When you’re in college, you’re used to, like, two guys — two superstars — on the team who get the ball consistently. I liked it because it just shows that you’ve got to keep working hard, and every year there’s going to be a new batch coming in, so you’ve got to make sure you improve every offseason.”

But there won’t likely be many — if any — new running backs. The position appears stocked after former general manager Ted Thompson picked three in last year’s draft: Williams (at No. 134 overall from BYU), Jones (at No. 182 from UTEP) and seldom-used Devante Mays (at No. 238 from Utah State).

It’s another reason Williams knows that he needs to be more explosive. Yes, he gained more than half of his yards after contact (51.8 percent to be exact), according to ESPN Stats & Information. By comparison, NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt got 47.9 percent of his yards after first contact, and second-leading rusher Todd Gurley gained just 39.8 percent of his yards after initial contact.

But as tough as Williams proved to be — he was the only Packers running back who didn’t miss a game this season — he lacked big plays. Of his 153 carries, he had only five explosive runs, defined by McCarthy as a gain of 12 or more yards.

By comparison, the speedier Jones had 10 explosive rushes despite carrying only 81 times.

“It just comes with time and repetition,” Williams said. “I felt like I was getting better and better at it as the season went by. So next year, it really won’t be anything new to me. I’ll just be able to come in and start where I left off.”

It was at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl that Williams signed hundreds of rookie trading cards that will be included in the 2017-18 Panini football card packets. Williams was supposed to sign over the course of a couple of days. Instead, he decided to get it all done at once in a four-hour, hand-cramping session.

“That’s the warrior mentality of playing football,” Williams said.

It helped Williams ride things out when Montgomery began the season as the starter and then Jones got the next shot. It wasn’t until both were injured in Week 10 against the Bears that Williams got his shot to be the No. 1 back, a job he didn’t give up the rest of the season.

“When Aaron and Ty went down, and they were like, ‘Jamaal, you’re going to run the ball,’ I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment, and I’m going to go out there and do what I need to do,’” Williams said. “That, for me, made me feel like all my hard work is paying off.”

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Their first four draft picks were designed to help the struggling defense, but the Green Bay Packers got their biggest rookie impact from two of the three running backs they selected on the final day.

Here’s a breakdown of the Packers’ 2017 draft class:

Grade: Below average.

Best rookie: Fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams was the workhorse running back, while fifth-rounder Aaron Jones provided the explosive change. Williams led the Packers in both carries (153) and rushing yards (556), but his average of 3.6 yards per carry suggests he’s more of a plodder. He also might be the more capable back in the passing game, both as a receiver and a blocker. Jones, despite a pair of knee injuries, showed more big-play ability. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry on just 81 attempts (448 yards) and matched Williams with four touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime against Tampa Bay to help the Packers stay alive in the playoff race at the time. Both had at least one 100-yard rushing game, and this duo looks more promising than opening-day starter Ty Montgomery as the future of the Packers’ backfield.

Most improved rookie: This one has to go to an undrafted rookie, punter Justin Vogel. He looked shaky in training camp but progressed as the season went along. He set the franchise record for net punting average (41.6), although a relatively mild weather season at home helped. Still, this spot should be solidified for next season.

Most disappointing rookie: Throughout the offseason practices, Josh Jones was seemingly around the ball at every turn. But the second-round pick couldn’t carry that over when it mattered. He bounced between safety and inside linebacker in the Packers’ nitro package, but other than the overtime interception in Cleveland that set up the game-winning score, he struggled in coverage most of the season. This was a classic case of a player who looked good in helmets and shorts but struggled when the pads came on. Top pick Kevin King also could be thrown into this category, but as cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said during the season, no one saw the real King because when he played, he was limited by a shoulder injury that eventually ended his season and required surgery.

Jury is still out on …: Montravius Adams and Vince Biegel. Both missed the early part of the season because of injuries. Adams, the third-round defensive tackle, broke his foot during the opening week of training camp and played in only one of the first seven games. Biegel, the fourth-round outside linebacker, had foot surgery in May and missed the entire offseason, training camp, the preseason and the first seven games of the regular season. The Packers hoped Adams would bolster their run defense and Biegel would provide some pass rush. Neither happened.

Undrafted rookie evaluation: The most promising undrafted rookie didn’t even see the field until Week 16. Receiver Michael Clark, a 6-foot-6 former college basketball player, caught four passes for 41 yards in the final two games combined. Yes, he struggled with drops, but his length and athletic ability make him a player to watch next summer after he has had a full year to refine his skills. Cornerback Lenzy Pipkins also looks like he might have potential.

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The last time the Green Bay Packers were a two-touchdown underdog, they were going to New England in 2010 without a concussed Aaron Rodgers.

Coach Mike McCarthy refused to believe it, saying at the time that they were “nobody’s underdogs.”

And he was nearly spot on. Behind Matt Flynn, the Packers put up a much stronger fight than anyone thought and lost 31-27. A week later, Rodgers returned to an 8-6 football team, the Packers won their last two regular-season games and went on to win the Super Bowl as a wild-card team.

There were no such proclamations from McCarthy before Sunday night’s game at Pittsburgh, where the Steelers were 14-point favorites, yet the result was similar to that night in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

On the game’s final play, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell won it, 31-28, with a 53-yard field goal.

The problem is, Rodgers isn’t coming back next week.

Or the week after.

Even though Rodgers went through a throwing workout before the game at Heinz Field — whipping at least one pass more than 50 yards in the air — he’s stuck on injured reserve for at least two more weeks. He could return to practice this coming week but can’t play this coming Sunday against Tampa Bay or the following week at Cleveland.

Even if the Packers (5-6) can win the next two, they might be too far out of the playoff picture when Rodgers is eligible to return in Week 15 at Carolina.

The Packers stayed in this game with a seemingly simple formula, yet one that had been hard to come by since Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6. McCarthy called a tough-to-defend combination of screen passes and deep balls for Brett Hundley, stayed committed to running back Jamaal Williams (21 carries for 66 yards with a rushing and receiving touchdown) and finally got some takeaways from his defense — three of them to be exact.

Considering the quality of the opponent, it was Hundley’s best showing to date with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 134.3 passer rating.

The only thing the Packers could be faulted for was the decision to try a 57-yard field goal midway through the third quarter while clinging to a 21-14 lead. It sailed away wide left, giving the Steelers favorable field position, which they turned into Ben Roethlisberger’s 1-yard fade to Antonio Brown over Kevin King for a tying touchdown.

Had McCarthy elected to punt, perhaps the Packers could have flipped the field position in their favor. Instead, the Steelers took over at Packers’ 47-yard line to set up an easy scoring drive.

At that point Hundley, who had already thrown three touchdown passes — one more than he had in his entire career entering Sunday night’s game — reverted to more of the quarterback he was the week before, when the Packers were shut out by the Ravens at Lambeau Field. Following the missed field goal, Hundley and the offense went three-and-out on the next two possessions.

Still, Hundley went score for score with Ben Roethlisberger, tying the game with 2:02 left thanks to a clutch drive until Antonio Brown burned the Packers with a sideline catch akin to the one former Packers tight end Jared Cook made in Dallas last year in the playoffs to set up the game-winning field goal.