Jamaal Williams trait #2: Excellent backfield vision
Though I admire Williams’ grit as a runner, his most impressive trait may be his excellent backfield vision.
It’s an aspect of his game that made him stand out from many of the other halfbacks in the 2017 draft class. It’s a large reason he was so productive in college, despite lacking elite size, speed, or athleticism.
Takes this nine-yard run against Arizona, for example. The original play is a lead dive between the left tackle and guard. Williams was supposed to run behind the motioning tight end.
However, shortly after the hand-off when Williams gets to about the 12 yard line he reads the linebacker coming up and filling the running lane. Williams quickly cuts back to the right, finds a new hole between the guard and tight end, plants his foot and turns upfield.
Williams turns what could have been a one or two-yard gain into a substantial run because he quickly reads the defense and responds properly.
It’s a nice run on first down to set up a second-and-short.
Williams also displays his sharp cutback ability on this 18-yard run against Utah. This comes on a stretch play to the right.
The BYU line veers to the right setting up cutback lanes for Williams. Once the action flows to the right side of the field, it’s then up to Williams to pick his spot to burst through the line.
Look at how decisive Williams is on this run. He doesn’t waste time once a hole opens up. He plants his foot, turns upfield and bursts into the second level of the defense for a nice gain.
What was supposed to be a run to close out the first half of the game became a play that allowed BYU to get in field goal range and score one more time before halftime.
Here’s another nice run by Williams. This time BYU is in the redzone and playing a tough Michigan State defense.
As Williams is supposed to run off tackle to the right, he sees the linebackers cheating to the outside, so he cuts back inside and exploits the opening in the middle of the field.
Williams’ quick jump-step makes him a dangerous and shifty runner. He’s constantly looking for openings in the defense to take advantage of – a sign of a smart runner.
Williams is also very patient in the backfield, and he does a nice job allowing his blocks to set up so he can hit the right hole and make the most of each opportunity.
There’s a certain rhythm to a proper running play and the former BYU halfback has a knack for letting a play develop before he bursts through the line.
On this play against Toledo, Williams hesitates for a split second to allow his line to open things up. However, once he sees an opening Williams turns on the jets and breaks free downfield for the score.
Williams waits to accelerate until the opportune time, turning a routine run into a game-changing play.
In his time at BYU, Williams had several big runs like this one, and this was in large part due to his ability to feel out a play and pick the right time to exploit the defense.
It’s a trait that is difficult to teach, and it’s something that should allow him to excel in the NFL.