‘I’m flying around’: Williams emerging on Lions ‘D’

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
LB Antwione Williams - Williams was probably forced into action earlier than the team wanted, but the rookie held his own with 27 tackles (two for a loss) and a fumble recovery. He also served as a four-phase special teams player. GRADE: C-

Allen Park – While it remains unclear exactly how the Detroit Lions will replace Kyle Van Noy’s playing time, you can bet rookie Antwione Williams will be part of the equation.

Williams, a fifth-round pick out of Georgia Southern, has had an up-and-down debut season, briefly stepping  into the starting lineup, suffering an injury, temporarily sliding to the bottom of his position group’s depth chart, before returning to a prominent defensive role last week.

It can be safety assumed, after the Lions parted ways with Van Noy, the team likes what it has seen out of Williams.

“He’s developing, he’s getting a little better,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “You’re learning things about these guys all the time, as time goes on, and he just keeps getting better and keeps measuring up. He’s got a good opportunity to maybe get a few more snaps.”

Williams is a versatile player, capable of playing all three linebacker positions, but at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, he’s a natural fit for the downhill play expected from the strongside spot Van Noy manned.

“Oh yeah, I love coming downhill, I like playing the run,” Williams said. “I just like to run and hit guys.

“When you see me, you better buckle your chin strap because I’m coming.”

Lions vs. Texans preview: Stop Hopkins, Fuller

In his first start, Week 2 against Tennessee, Williams flashed that hard-hitting ability, stuffing a run behind the line and tracking down the running back on swing pass for a one-yard gain during the opening possession. But a hamstring injury in the second quarter cost him the rest of the game, as well as the next week.

He returned to the starting lineup in Week 4, but showed signs of rust.

“When I first got back, I wasn’t really trusting my leg all the way,” he said. “I watched myself, that first game back against Chicago, and I was pissed off. That’s not me. I’m not that player.”

He’s put that performance behind him, and now that he’s nearing the midpoint of his rookie campaign, things are starting to slow down for Williams.

“I’m out there flying around now,” he said. “And yeah, I’m still making some mistakes, but as long as you’re making them playing fast, you can negate a lot of them. I’m cutting down my mistakes a lot.”

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Texans