|National Football League|
Lions may lean on RB Williams in thin backfield
By LARRY LAGE
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Keiland Williams was with the Washington Redskins a year ago, believing he had a shot to start after showing signs of promise as a rookie.
The Redskins surprised Williams by cutting him just before last season and he was claimed by the Lions the next day to bolster their depth without then-rookie Mikel Leshoure and with lingering questions about Jahvid Best's durability.
Detroit (No. 11 in the AP Pro32) needs options in its backfield because it won't have Best for an indefinite period and Leshoure for at least the first two weeks of the season.
"Are we better with Leshoure and Best? Definitely," Williams said. "But we have guys who can step up and get the job done."
Williams showed that in a preseason loss Friday night against Cleveland, running for 71 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Williams was used as a backup behind Smith, but the performance probably helped his chances to compete to be the team's starting running back in Week 1.
Best said on Monday that he still doesn't know when he'll be cleared for contact after having two concussions last year.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Best told a reporter.
Leshoure is struggling to come back from a hamstring injury and has been suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the season for off-field conduct.
"You definitely don't want anything bad to happen to anyone no matter if you're competing or not, but at the same time that brings opportunities for other people," Williams said. "You just have to capitalize."
He did against the Browns, running with power on a 5-yard TD the first time he got the ball and picking up 41 yards on his next two carries.
"When you go back and watch the tape, there are things I could've done better and there are certain cuts I could've made," Williams said. "Overall, I feel like I played pretty good and I'm just trying to let that carry over."
Williams will get another chance to compete for playing time in Detroit's second preseason game Friday night at Baltimore - not far from the place he began in the NFL.
Following a career that didn't match high expectations at LSU, the native of Lafayette, La., wasn't drafted in part because of a broken ankle. He recovered well enough to make the Redskins' roster in 2010 as an undrafted free agent. In his first of three starts, he ran for 89 yards and two TDs and caught four passes for 50 yards and another score.
"He's done well when he has been given chances," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Williams finished his rookie season with 261 yards rushing and three TDs and caught 39 passes for 309 yards and two scores.
The Redskins, though, thought the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Williams might be more suited to play fullback before deciding they didn't want him back for a second season.
"I thought I was going to compete for the starting job," he recalled. "I got a lot of playing time my first year and that helped me get picked up by the Lions."
Williams scrambled to learn Detroit's offense last year, going week to week to pick up details in the offense. He said having a full season and offseason with the franchise has helped him get more comfortable during training camp.
"I'm out there reacting and not really thinking," he said.
So far, Lions offensive guard Rob Sims has been impressed with Williams.
"I never seen him take days off," Sims said. "He fits right in and that's how you got to be in this league. People get bounced around, get traded and moved. You have to be able to transition."
NOTES: All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson (left index finger) , DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (knee), WR Ryan Broyles (left knee) and S Don Carey (left hamstring) were among the banged-up players who didn't practice. ... S Louis Delmas, who had surgery on his left knee last week, watched the workout while sitting on a second-floor terrace. ... Detroit police officers were invited guests of the Lions at practice. "When our guys go out to do their job, they have a chance of pulling a hamstring," said Schwartz, whose father was a police officer in the Baltimore area. "Those guys put their life on the line every day they go to work and they do it for the citizens of Detroit."
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Updated August 14, 2012