Could Kyren Williams be a better version of the role that Jamaal Williams had on the Detroit Lions last season? Never praised for having elite athleticism at the running back position, Jamaal Williams scored an NFL-leading 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022 and helped the Lions finish fifth in scoring. His role was replaced by David Montgomery this season and the former Bears running back already has five touchdowns, same as Kyren Williams.
Kyren isn’t the biggest or the fastest and he’s already had a fumble and a dropped pass that led to an interception. However, he could still be the L.A. Rams’ best running back since Todd Gurley and he’s on pace to do something that no player in his role has done for the team in the last 10 years other than Gurley:
Rushing for 1,000 yards and receive for 500 yards.
Only four Rams running backs have done that since 1983: Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson, and Todd Gurley. There’s no way that Kyren Williams will be confused with those four, but what he has been is the band-aid option at running back that Sean McVay never got with Cam Akers or Darrell Henderson.
And it’s unlikely anyone else on the roster is going to take his job away any time soon.
Williams has rushed for 245 yards in four games and he’s coming off of the first 100-yard game of his career after leading the team with 25 carries against the Indianapolis Colts. Parting ways with Cam Akers after Week 1 has opened the door for Williams to become a 80-100% snaps player since then.
He has helped his case by scoring two times in three of four games this season.
If we just look at the last three games without Akers, then Williams has 193 rushing yards and 99 receiving yards. That would put him on pace for 1,094 rushing and 561 receiving for a 17-game season. The last player on the Rams to do that was Gurley, who had 1,251 rushing and 17 touchdowns plus 580 receiving and four touchdowns in 2018.
But Gurley averaged 4.9 yards per carry that season and right now Williams is only at 3.8, a number that ranks him 29th in the NFL.
In fact, Williams has remarkably similar numbers to Montgomery:
Montgomery: 69 carries, 262 yards, 3.8 YPC, 5 TD, 1 fumble, 55.1 success rate
Williams: 62 carries, 245 yards, 3.8 YPC, 5 TD, 1 fumble, 59.4 success rate
The main difference being that Matthew Stafford likes to utilize Williams in the passing game and Jared Goff doesn’t throw at Montgomery very often, in part because Detroit has rookie first round pick Jahmyr Gibbs.
The Rams complementary player for Williams is Ronnie Rivers, who had nine carries for 47 yards on Sunday, the first significant action of his career. Rivers’ 5.2 yards per carry is more than Williams has had in any game of his career yet in which he had more than seven rushing attempts.
But it would be surprising if Sean McVay was going to reverse course with Williams after the best game of his career and one in which he was trusted with 25 carries in an overtime win. The Rams could try and split the backfield more often between Williams and Rivers, and if the team is successful this season by winning more often than they lose, then it shouldn’t be bad news for Kyren’s attempt to become a 1,000-yard rusher.
A fifth round pick out of Notre Dame in 2022, Williams had over 1,000 rushing yards, over 300 receiving yards, and at least 13 rushing touchdowns in each of his final two seasons in college. Not only is he on pace to do that at the NFL level in 2023, he’s got an ideal setup to be McVay’s workhorse in the backfield if he avoids costly mistakes.
He may never be as good as Gurley or Faulk or Dickerson or Jackson, but right now the Rams don’t need him to be anything more than Kyren (or Jamaal) Williams.