Lions’ Williams preps for larger linebacker role
Allen Park — Coming into training camp, Lions general manager Bob Quinn liked the team’s depth at linebacker more than most spots on the roster. But injuries have eroded away at that perceived strength and quickly forced rookie Antwione Williams into a larger role.
The first blow came just before the start of camp, when DeAndre Levy was placed on the non-football injury list with an unknown ailment. The next man up, Jonathan Bostic, suffered a leg injury last week and underwent surgery Monday. He’s likely done for the season. Even Josh Bynes, who started in place of Levy last season, had recently been taking first-team reps but sat out Monday’s practice because of an injury.
Enter Williams, who had been largely been working with the second- and third-team defenses as a strongside linebacker. On Monday, he was working with the top unit, but on the weakside.
“You have to prepare for that,” Williams said. “Stuff happens. You have to be able to move up and be ready … I know I’m able to perform at a level where there’s no drop-off between me and the guy in front of me.”
Williams, a fifth-round pick from Georgia Southern, was praised for his versatility coming out of college. He said the techniques to play the two outside linebacking positions are very different, but he’s comfortable at either spot.
“He’s a smart young guy and he’s learning,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s getting better, but he also made some mistakes. As time goes on, he has the characteristics to keep getting better, better and better.”
In Friday’s 30-17 exhibition-opening win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Williams played more defensive snaps than any Lions player, working 34 plays. He also led the team with five tackles. The Steelers managed just 103 yards of offense in the second half of the contest, and more importantly, just three points.
“I feel I went out there and provided a spark to the defense,” Williams said.
“That’s what I feel I’m pretty good at, just flying around and hitting people. Hopefully, as these games go on, I get better and better as I get more in the swing of things.”