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New Orleans Saints

Saints make smart low-key signing with Jonathan Williams

Aug 31, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister (50) dives to try and tackle Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Williams (31) as he runs the ball at New Era Field. Buffalo beats Detroit 27 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints added to their fearsome running attack by lifting Jonathan Williams off the Denver Broncos’ practice squad and signing him to a deal. It’s a low-key signing that could pay off down the road for the NFL’s No. 3-ranked rushing offense.

Williams, who was drafted last year by the Buffalo Bills, was expected to serve as the primary backup to LeSean McCoy this season. The team had a void to fill after running back Mike Gillislee signed with the New England Patriots in the offseason, and there was hope that Williams would have progressed far enough in his second year to receive meaningful snaps behind the All-Pro back.

But that opportunity never materialized. Williams lost the job to veteran Mike Tolbert before being released and placed on waivers. The Bills would have likely placed him on the practice squad if he went unclaimed, but the Denver Broncos stepped in and claimed him. A few months later, the Saints are taking him to join a running back committee of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

One could easily make the case that Williams is still a prospect that has yet to show his skills at the professional level. He missed all of his senior year at the University of Arkansas with an injury after running for 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns in the previous season. Not only was last season his first in the NFL, it was also his first year back after undergoing season-ending foot surgery.

The Bills thought high enough of him to take him in the fifth round after he missed his senior season, and the Broncos saw something that sparked their interest when they poached him off waivers. He’s a relentless downhill runner who should work well to spell Ingram and Kamara in rare moments. His presence also gives the Saints a little more depth in the backfield after they lost backup Daniel Lasco in last week’s game against the Bills.

Back in August, Williams seemed excited for an opportunity to prove himself. Little did he know, he’d be doing it with the Saints.

“I definitely think there was a learning curve,” Williams said, via the official team website. “I have a lot of confidence in myself, and it was a year where I didn’t do as well as I wanted. I think I needed it to get ready for this year and my future career. It helped me get introduced to the NFL, and it helped learn what I needed to work on. It let me know it wasn’t where I wanted to be last year, and I use it as motivation.”

Williams has definitely ended up in the right place to be motivated. He’s on a 7-2 team with a future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, at quarterback. Now would be as good a time as ever to show his talent.

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