Rookie RB Dexter Williams Quiet in NFL Debut for Packers

Dexter Williams Rookie Debut Packers

Getty Tim Boyle #8 of the Green Bay Packers hands the ball off to Dexter Williams #22 in the first half of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

After six weeks of inactivity, Green Bay Packers rookie running back Dexter Williams finally made his regular-season NFL debut Sunday afternoon. But if you blinked, you might have missed it.

With the Packers leading 42-17 late in the fourth quarter, the sixth-round draft pick out of Notre Dame took the ball on three straight snaps and got stuffed by Oakland’s defense on two of them, gaining just two yards before Green Bay punted it away. Williams also spent some of his afternoon with the kickoff return unit.

In his defense, the run game was not the source of strength for the Packers (6-1) in their 42-24 win over the Raiders (3-3) as Aaron Rodgers logged a perfect passer rating with more than 400 passing yards and six total touchdowns, including one he rushed in himself. Even lead rusher Aaron Jones wasn’t particularly active with just 50 yards on 12 carries, though he did catch a 21-yard touchdown pass on the Packers’ first drive.

Jamaal Williams was only slightly more productive than the rookie Williams with his three carries, gaining five yards but, like Jones, catching a touchdown pass from Rodgers. Rushers accounted for nearly a quarter of the team’s 429 receiving yards, as Jones (33) and Williams (26) were outpaced by fullback Danny Vitale and his two catches for 43 yards.

And yet, Dexter Williams never became involved until after the game was well out of reach. He was inserted along with backup quarterback Tim Boyle as a pair of human victory cigars and weren’t needed to do anything beyond run down the time. Williams and Boyle ran six plays in their two drives together: three straight runs, then three straight kneel-downs to end the game.

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Patience is a Luxury for Packers With Williams

Unlike their rival Chicago Bears, who have taken their draft rookie running back and thrust him into a primary role in their ineffective offense, the Packers already have a two-headed attack that allows them time to wait on Williams.

Jones and Williams have been wildly effective both through the air and on the ground in the first seven weeks, combining for 595 rushing yards, 309 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns as one of the best two-rusher tandems in the NFL. The numbers would likely be even better if Williams hadn’t missed two games with a concussion.

For as long as they work well together, it will be harder for the younger Williams to make it onto the field outside of end-game situations such as Sunday. It also likely means the Packers selected him with the intention of taking more time to develop him, particularly as a pass-catcher. He struggled near the end of his career with drops for the Fighting Irish.

It seemed the Packers weren’t ready to trust their rookie a few weeks ago when they elected to go with Tra Carson as a replacement when Jamaal Williams was knocked out of Week 4’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson took a few carries Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys as Jones galloped off for a career game, then last week was waived to make room for the signing of former Raiders wide receiver Ryan Grant.

Such a move suggests the Packers still have faith that Dexter Williams can develop into a useful component for their offense, but how the rest of his rookie season goes — as well as the status of Jones and Jamaal Williams — will dictate his future in Green Bay.

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