Now is not the time to bench a three-time Pro Bowler for a 22-year-old rookie. But when coaches pop in the film of this punch in the Indianapolis Colts’ mouth, they also can’t ignore what’s on the screen.
On his first carry, Karlos Williams raced 26 yards to the end zone and took a bow.
On his 17 carries, LeSean McCoy mostly went nowhere.
“Being able to touch the end zone on your first carry,” Williams said, “is always a great feeling.”
There’s room for the rookie from Florida State in this offense.
It wasn’t always McCoy’s fault — lanes closed fast on some carries and he had one touchdown called back — but the starter mustered only 41 yards (2.4 per carry) in the Buffalo Bills’ 27-14 win over the Colts. He couldn’t gain the corner, constantly swarmed by blue jerseys. And with his six carries, Williams rushed for 55 yards.
Williams has a gear rarely seen in 6-foot-1, 230-pounders and he proved that gear does translate to the NFL game — an instant confidence-builder.
“A little bit, a little bit,” said Williams. “I had a run where I kind of broke out up the middle, saw two defenders coming to sandwich me and I’m big enough to take those hits from the sides and still get a couple yards after that. It’s all about opportunities. My size and speed are a blessing from God.”
Williams scored on his first carry in college, too, taking it 65 yards to the house in 2013 against Nevada. On this score, the middle of the line got jammed up with bodies — Indianapolis crashed hard to the middle — so Williams veered left, reached the second level and nobody laid a finger on him.
One Colts defensive back closed at half-speed, almost scared to attempt a tackle.
Williams is well aware that Buffalo slipped into a state of depression when the team cut veteran Fred Jackson. Maybe seeing the replacement (who’s a decade younger) rip off a run like this can cheer fans up.
“I hope so,” Williams said. “Fred was great. Fred is a legend here. Hopefully, they’ll retire his number. But I’m just here to do the best I can do every day and learn from these guys every day and then go out and compete every Sunday.”
Added guard John Miller, “He brings that explosiveness. He came in and gave us some fresh legs.”
Sidelined at the end of training camp, Williams said he stayed in the playbook to be ready for this moment. And into the fourth quarter, he exploded through safety Dwight Lowery to punctuate a 14-yard run. He runs with a violence.
Meanwhile, McCoy was kept in check. Indianapolis didn’t let him get outside, funneling him toward tacklers inside.
He’s not concerned with the lack of running room.
“Listen, it’s a brand-new season,” McCoy said. “Sometimes, there wasn’t. Sometimes, I didn’t make the right cuts. It’s a group thing. We have to get there.”
McCoy said Williams is going to “spell” him this season, calling him a “fast, tough kid.” He wasn’t surprised by the rookie’s smashing debut.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “Them young dudes, they keep rolling.”
Maybe McCoy breaks out next week. He’s the type of back who can have runs of two, three, two, one, two yards before rupturing for 60.
But with a run and a bow, it’s clear Williams will have a role, too.
“I’m not really a big celebrator,” Williams said. “I usually give the ball right back to the ref, but I wanted to thank everybody for the cheers.”