Dexter Williams' Path to the Final Roster Becomes More Clear

It's a loaded running back room that the Green Bay Packers have, but after one week of camp, Dexter Williams' path to the final roster may be more clear than we think. 

For Green Bay Packers' 2019 sixth-round pick, Dexter Williams, his rookie season came with a lot of lumps during training camp and the preseason, followed by little playing time - 10 offensive snaps to be exact - in the regular-season.

In one practice, we saw Matt LaFleur remove Williams from a drill because of his lack of execution. Then in preseason games, we saw a runner who was indecisive at times, struggled as a pass-catcher, and someone who couldn't hold his own as a run-blocker. 

However, in Williams' defense, as a sixth-round pick that we all knew had a raw skill-set, to some extent, this should have been expected. But what can't be denied is the big-play ability that he displayed during his career at Notre Dame, averaging 6.3 yards per carry during his final season, and his natural fit for the LaFleur offense. 

The LaFleur run game is built around the outside zone run scheme, and while Williams certainly isn't the fastest back by any means, he's an explosive runner that can get north and south very quickly, which allows him to burst through any hole that the offensive line opens for him. Although initially, I pointed out what went wrong last summer for Williams, he also displayed that one-cut burst that is essential to this offense and racked up 128 rushing yards and one touchdown on 37 attempts last preseason. 

Even with a loaded running back room, in a recent Zoom call with reporters, LaFleur mentioned how excited he was to see Williams in training camp:

“The guy that I’m excited to see more too, is Dexter Williams. He’s a guy that’s really been working really really hard in all the video I’ve seen of him in the conditioning phases.”

With his rookie year now behind him, and all of our attention turned to the 2020 season, when it comes to the Green Bay Packers' running back room, Williams remains a bit of an afterthought, and it's easy to understand why.

Aaron Jones is coming off a breakout season where he posted nearly 1,100 rushing yards, nearly 500 more through the air, along with 19 total touchdowns. Jamaal Williams is about as reliable as they come in all three phases, and the Packers did just spend the 62nd pick on running back A.J. Dillon from Boston College. 

So, naturally, when many are putting together their roster predictions - including myself - the common theme is to keep four running backs. The three mentioned above, along with Tyler Ervin, given his special teams prowess and his ability as a gadget player within the offense. I'd certainly consider this a reasonable projection.

But as Lee Corso says, "not so fast!"

With training camp underway this past week, we've learned a few things. One being that Ervin was working out with the receivers and not the running backs. Now, this shouldn't come as a total shock to anyone. With Jones, J. Williams, and Dillon, Ervin was unlikely to see many snaps out of the backfield, although I'm sure there will be a few. Even in his short time with Green Bay last season, 35 of his 46 total offensive snaps came either out wide or in the slot. So as I said, Ervin going through practice with the receivers isn't breaking news. 

What this means for Dexter Williams, however, is that there appears to be a much more clearer path to the final roster, which even just a week ago seemed bleak. At the receiver position, I would consider Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling as locks. But with Devin Funchess opting-out, that leaves a spot or two open that LaFleur could give to Ervin depending on how players like Jake Kumerow, Reggie Begelton, Darrius Shepherd, and Malik Turner perform. 

With Ervin's skill-set and ability as a return man, he is going to be on the final roster, but what's important is what position he is listed at. And if it is, in fact, as a receiver, then Williams could very well be the Packers fourth running back in 2020. 

Now, having said all of that, there is still plenty that has to play out before these decisions are made, and ultimately, it's up to Williams to show that he's deserving of a roster spot. Last season he just squeaked on the team, but it was evident that he didn't have LaFleur's trust. I mean, Tra Carson saw more action than him before he was eventually cut.  

Dexter Williams is in Year 2 of the offense, he's a great fit for it, and he's on LaFleur's radar. Now it's time to perform and capitalize on this opportunity.  

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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8 points

Comments (15)

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Coldworld's picture

August 21, 2020 at 01:23 pm

Dexter needs to show he can block consistently and learn assignments. He makes sense as a back up to Jones but only if he is assignment sure in both blocking and passing. Dillon looks to be more natural in the passing game and still a work in progress in the blocking game.

I can’t see 2 questionable blockers being active. So I don’t see an obvious place for Dexter, regardless of Ervin’s role/ designation, unless there is an injury or trade and the light goes on for him in terms of blocking and playbook.

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dobber's picture

August 21, 2020 at 02:13 pm

"With Ervin's skill-set and ability as a return man, he is going to be on the final roster, but what's important is what position he is listed at. And if it is, in fact, as a receiver, then Williams could very well be the Packers fourth running back in 2020. "

I think we worry too much about numbers at position groups on the 53--especially for position groups where the lines marking the breaks between them aren't clearly drawn. Ervin is primarily a special teams specialist, much like Jeff Janis and Jarrett Bush before him. He has the ability to break the bottom of the depth chart at a couple position groups, but he's still going to be on the roster based on ST and whatever they list his final position group as is not likely to keep another deserving player off the roster. It may push a fringe roster player off, but what are you really losing in that case?

In Edit:
As a side note, it looks like there's mutual interest in signing the vet at a money position...

https://www.profootballrumors.com/2020/08/packers-eyeing-david-bakhtiari...

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flackcatcher's picture

August 21, 2020 at 03:07 pm

This is going to be interesting. Bakh has outplayed his contract and is without a doubt a top 5 (I put him at No. 1) OT in a Cap deflated league. Even with more Cap relief this is a tough one. Glad I'm not Gute...

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dobber's picture

August 21, 2020 at 03:42 pm

If they can push most of his $$ out from under the ARod bubble and not encumber 2020-22 too much, it's workable. I think we all knew that, but it asks us to accept the shelf life of #12 in GB. It does mean that it gets hard for some of these other FAs this off-season, but it's a league of replacement: keep your best guys at key positions, and be prepared to replace the others.

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flackcatcher's picture

August 22, 2020 at 07:21 pm

Hard truths...

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gkarl's picture

August 21, 2020 at 02:37 pm

I'm not convinced he makes the 53. Right now we have RB's that are better pass catching options, better blockers, and more assignment sure than Williams. He's not a big ST contributor and hasn't really proven to be an effective runner in the NFL.

I think we keep 3 QB's and 10 OL on the 53, that only leaves 12-13 spots for RB, WR and TE and Ervin will be one of those. Unless he makes a massive improvement or RB's are injured I'm thinking taxi squad to start TY for Williams.

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dobber's picture

August 21, 2020 at 03:48 pm

When it comes time to make cuts, I think they'll also be considering 2021 and asking who in this current group of backs will be able to contribute then. RBs tend to be a product of OL and scheme (which is why we handcuff star RBs with their backups in FFL). If the Packers are forced to let both J. Williams and Jones go this offseason (which is entirely possible), I think D. Williams on a rookie deal and showing well could earn him a spot based on projection...he's just got to beat out the others behind him.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 22, 2020 at 07:55 am

Dobber you nailed it!

First one has to look at Dexter's development. Secondly one has to project which RB will be with the team in 2021.

Dexter has tons of talent but there is a maturity issue. I'm very curious about him as I believe he could be as effective running the ball as any of our RB's based on talent alone.

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gkarl's picture

August 27, 2020 at 07:27 am

Dobber, No doubt what your saying has merit, 2021 should be a consideration but not an excuse to keep him. Has many here like to point out when discussing AJ running back are a dime a dozen, we can get anew one to replace him tomorrow. If that's true for AJ it certainly is for Williams.

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ShooterMcGee's picture

August 21, 2020 at 06:50 pm

You make a great point about only 12-13 spots for rbs, tes, and wrs. If true there seems like there will be no room for Williams, and little need. The 4 running backs should be Jones, Williams, Dillon, and Ervin. The most probable scenario is that 4 tight ends will make the team- Lewis, Tonyan, Sternberger, and Deguara. Then there is only
room for 5 wide receivers- Adams, Lazard, EQ, MVS, and Beggleton or Kumerow or Taylor. That brings the total to 13. In addition this doesn't count Naglers man crush Lovett, who seems like a full back, h-back, tight end versatile weapon.
Dexter is certainly destined for the practice squad.

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flackcatcher's picture

August 21, 2020 at 02:56 pm

Final roster spots on the bottom third always come down to special teams and future needs. Like Coldworld and dobber said, does Williams provide something which keeps him on the active roster even in this strange football season to date. To be blunt, no. In MLF's offense no block, no play. Even AJ (thunder thighs) Dillon at best will be spot player with two veterans ahead of him. After what happened last year at least two RB slots will be filled by FB/H-Back types that the Packers have already drafted or as we saw pick up as a free agent. So where does that leave Williams for this season. Inactive, and on the bench. But the good news for him is he will get another shot next year. He has too much raw talent for the Packers to walk away from. (Cap man likes him and with Corona-19 lurking around....)

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BeerCheese4's picture

August 21, 2020 at 11:08 pm

I see the only paths are an RB injury or PS, hopefully the latter

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WilliamHeffington's picture

August 22, 2020 at 03:51 am

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Leatherhead's picture

August 22, 2020 at 03:22 pm

Active Gameday Offensive 21:

2 QBs
8 offensive linemen.
5 WRs
3 TEs
3 Backs.

You could, I guess, carry one less OL, or one less WR, but I don’t see how the #4 RB gets on the field unless somebody gets hurt.

Given that returning kicks and punts is kind of counterproductive in the first place, it’s probably not a good reason to keep a guy primarily for that. Unless there’s a trade or injury, it’ll be Jones and Dillon on the field a lot. A third guy might get some snaps and play on coverage units......

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mbpacker's picture

August 22, 2020 at 07:42 pm

I agree with those who see the PS as the home for Dexter this year. I do think that the Packers see raw talent which is suited for their offense and are going to be patient with him. Another year on the PS he can work on his skills, and who knows maybe he will improve. And as others have pointed out, we don't know the future of Jones or Williams. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. But one thing is for sure, Dexter had to prove himself like everyone at this level does. Packers will be patient for only so long. But we know they like to develop their own.

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