Jamaal Williams was known for his ball security when he was rolling up yards on his way to becoming BYU’s all-time leading rusher.
That ability to protect the ball translated over to the NFL in his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers.
In his first pro season, Williams never lost a fumble in 178 touches, according to Zach Kruse of Packers Wire. He was one of just three NFL players — including New England running back Dion Lewis (235 touches) and Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen (199) — with at least 175 touches and no fumbles in 2017.
Kruse attributed part of that ball security to Williams’ big hands.
“His 10-inch mitts keep a firm grasp on the ball and make it difficult for defenders to rip it out,” he wrote
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called Williams “a workhorse capable of succeeding at the many roles a running back is asked to perform in coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.” He also lauded Williams for playing 79.3 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps during the final seven weeks of the season, while also pointing out Williams’ 3.6 yards-per-carry average needs to improve.
Again, though, his ball security stuck out.
“Williams was so good at protecting the ball, he had to be told not to always cover it with two arms so he could get more out of each run,” Silverstein wrote.
That kind of ball security is what Cougar fans became accustomed to. During his BYU career, Williams had only five fumbles on 786 total touches and lost only two fumbles, both in his senior season. That averages out to a fumble every 157.2 touches.
Mr. Smith goes to Washington
Though the first day of the 2018 league year isn’t yet here for the NFL — that day is officially March 14 — there is already plenty of talk surrounding former Utah quarterback Alex Smith after reports that Smith will be traded by the Kansas City Chiefs to the Washington Redskins.
It’s a change that Smith, who spent the past five seasons playing for the Chiefs, is embracing.
“I’m jacked. I’m really excited,” Smith told the Murph & Mac podcast on KNBR-AM in San Francisco, according to the Washington Post. “Once I found out that things in Kansas City were going in a different direction, I was pumped at the opportunity, and when Washington came calling I was hopeful that that was a possible destination, and I’m just jacked that it worked out. They wanted me because the feeling was mutual, and I’m looking forward to it.”
While both sides have agreed to the trade — the Post reported the Chiefs agreed to trade Smith to the Redskins in exchange for a third-round draft pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller — it can’t become official until the new season begins next month. According to the Post, the 12-year veteran quarterback agreed to a four-year extension that is worth up to $94 million.
Smith was one of the NFL’s best at protecting the ball his time in Kansas City. In the past five seasons, he had 102 touchdown passes while only throwing 33 interceptions, an average of 6.6 per year. In 2017, he threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I feel amazing,” Smith said, according to the Post. “I feel great. I feel like the last five, six years have flown by. I’ve had more fun than I’ve ever had playing the game.”
Lions need an answer on Ansah
Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is facing several questions he’ll need to answer as the newly appointed head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Chief among them, according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, is whether the Lions will try to keep former BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month.
While Ansah had 12 sacks and 44 tackles in 2017 — his second pro season with double-digit sacks — he’s been plagued by numerous injuries in five seasons with Detroit. Rothstein points out that Patricia needs to decide if Ansah fits into his defensive scheme.
“The defensive end is the Lions’ biggest potential free agent and they’ll need to decide whether or not to use the franchise or transition tag on him by March,” Rothstein wrote.
Ansah isn’t the only Utah tie Detroit will have to make a decision on in free agency. Rothstein also mentions that the Lions will have to make decisions on former Highland High defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and former Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson, both starters for Detroit.
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Former Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis is one of several local ties who is hoping to hear his name called during April’s NFL draft. Pro Football Football rated him third-highest on the playmaker index among cornerback prospects in the 2018 NFL draft field.