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Will Jonathan Williams Be The Next Man Up in the Saints Backfield?

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With Mark Ingram out, is the answer to running back depth for New Orleans already on the roster?

Detroit Lions v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints opened their rookie camp this past weekend, the first chance to see this year's draft choices and free agent signees on the field in their new uniforms. They opened camp just days after the league announced that Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season. The team still has the reigning offensive rookie of the year in Alvin Kamara, who was already expected to take on an even bigger role in the Saints offense. The immediate question now surrounding New Orleans is their depth behind Kamara, and how they will go about replacing Ingram's production until his return. The Saints have very little experience at the running back position, their current depth chart looks like this:

Trey Edmunds (6'2, 223-lbs., 2nd yr.)

~Edmunds made the team as a rookie free agent last year, rushing for 48 yards on 9 carries and a touchdown.

Daniel Lasco (6'1, 205-lbs., 3rd yr.)

~Lasco joined the Saints as a 7th round pick in the 2016 draft. He has 11 career rushes for 32 yards and 2 scores, but is coming back from surgery on a bulging disc that ended his 2017 season.

Boston Scott (5'7, 200-lbs., Rookie)

~Scott is a 6th round pick from last month's draft, hoping to make an impact after a 1,000-yd. rushing season in his senior year at Louisiana Tech.

Most veterans were exempt from this weekend's activities, but Scott was present, as were undrafted invitees D'Ernest Johnson, Gerard Wicks, Kamryn Pettway, and Josh Rounds. Johnson, and undrafted rookie from South Florida, was previewed in a piece last week.

https://www.canalstreetchronicles.com/2018/5/10/17331352/new-orleans-saints-undrafted-rookie-profile-dernest-johnson

One other veteran exempt from rookie camp was a player that New Orleans poached off of the Denver Broncos practice squad down the stretch of the 2017 season. He is the subject of today's player profile:

Jonathan Williams, RB (6'0, 223-lbs)

Georgia Bulldogs v Arkansas Razorbacks Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Williams came into the league as a 5th round draft choice out of Arkansas in 2016 by the Buffalo Bills. He was second team All-SEC and led the Razorbacks in rushing with 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns his junior year, following a 900-yd. season the year before, but dropped in the draft due to a foot injury that forced him to miss his 2015 senior season. He rushed for 94 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown in limited action during his rookie year with Buffalo, and entered his second season as the favorite to be the primary backup to starter LeSean McCoy. The Bills surprisingly cut Williams after a couple of untimely fumbles during preseason, and he was signed to Denver Broncos practice squad, where he remained until signed to a 2-yr. contract by New Orleans last November.

Buffalo Bills v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Williams is a prototypical downhill runner, able to quickly find the hole and hitting it decisively. He has quick feet and excellent lateral movement, especially along the line of scrimmage, sliding past tacklers for extra yardage. Once in the open field, Williams has very good change of direction ability, often forcing a number of missed tackles against him. He played in a run-heavy Arkansas offensive scheme, but he does have good receiving skills and is an adequate pass blocker. Williams is a weapon on screen passes and check down routes especially, turning upfield quickly after securing the catch and proving to be an elusive target in the open field. Williams has had issues with ball security at times, losing 4 fumbles during his junior year in college and multiple fumbles last preseason that contributed to his release from the Bills. He doesn't have breakaway speed in the open field, and has trouble at times bouncing a run to the outside. Although he was never a featured back in college, Williams showed the ability to be an every down back while rushing for nearly 2,100 yards in two seasons while sharing backfield duties. He is a consistent threat near the goal line as well, scoring 20 touchdowns in two years.

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Despite rumors to the contrary, Saints coach Sean Payton has said that the team wouldn't necessarily look to sign a veteran running back. Backs such as Demarco Murray and Alfred Morris have been linked to New Orleans, and even a possible return of Adrian Peterson has been mentioned. Kamara seems ready to take on a more prominent role, and there's every reason to believe that Ingram will return from his suspension motivated to do well in a contract year. Sean Payton and his offensive staff have done a masterful job over the years at getting multiple backs involved in their game plan, so we shouldn't expect the talented Kamara to be overloaded until Ingram's return. The key storyline to watch is whether any of these inexperienced backs, like Williams, will be able to take advantage of their opportunities. Or will New Orleans be forced to scour the remaining free agent market for an answer.

Poll

Who will likely step up as the number 2 back with Ingram out?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Jonathan Williams
    (381 votes)
  • 27%
    Trey Edmunds
    (292 votes)
  • 22%
    Boston Scott
    (238 votes)
  • 2%
    Daniel Lasco
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    One of the UDFA rookies
    (20 votes)
  • 9%
    A veteran free agent
    (102 votes)
1064 votes total Vote Now