Damien Williams might be the most intriguing addition the Chicago Bears have made since the end of the 2020 season.
Lead running back David Montgomery quietly was the NFL’s fourth most productive running back from scrimmage last season, trailing only Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara, so Williams clearly isn’t here to compete for the No. 1 job.
The Bears haven’t had a true No. 2 running back, a guy you could count on to step in and start a few games or more without a significant drop off in production, since 2015 and 2016 when Jeremy Langford backed up Matt Forte and then Jordan Howard.
Tarik Cohen could prove to be the best third-down back in the league, but he’s not a guy you’re comfortable giving 17-to-25 touches a game.
Williams, on the other hand, was a standout No. 2 in his two seasons in Kansas City in 2018 and 2019 before opting out last year. He also played well in his fourth and final season in Miami in 2017.
Williams stepped into the starting lineup four times in relief of Kenyan Drake and Jay Ajayi in Miami in ’17, three times in relief of Kareem Hunt in ’18 and six times in relief of LeSean McCoy in ’19 in Kansas City.
Over the course of those three seasons he put up a combined stat line 197 carries for 935 yards and nine touchdowns along with 73 catches for 528 yards and five more TDs.
Obviously everyone hopes to see a healthy Montgomery over 17 games, but what these two might do together – and throw Cohen in the mix as well – is exciting.
Asked Wednesday, head coach Matt Nagy told us what makes Williams so appealing.
“For Damien, what we really liked about him was his versatility as a running back and as well out of the backfield, the things he can do,” Nagy said. “He’s very well rounded. It’s just a really good fit for our running back room.”
Williams appears to really like the fit as well, telling me this when I asked him why he chose the Bears:
“Oh man, I could say a lot of things, but really just to sum it all down, sitting out a year and then coming back I really didn’t want to learn a whole new system,” Williams said. “So coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays it was easy for me, and then meeting the coaches, meeting everybody in the building, it was easy.”
On Montgomery and Cohen, Williams added, “Those guys are hilarious (laughs).
“From day one you know they’re all smiles and giggles and jokes and when we come out on the field you know we work hard. So, you know, being around those kind of players it really makes you want to come to work and have fun.”
What I didn’t realize about him until meeting him (via Zoom) was what a big personality he has. Williams gave a quality answer when asked why he chose to opt out last year.
“At first I did it for my Mom and everybody understood why I did it,” he said. “Then once you got into the season and watching how you know how it actually ... Me personally, I’m sitting at home like I hope the season doesn’t go all the way through, especially with the COVID thing, then I won’t feel like I missed too much.
“But nah, you know just sitting at home and watching it made me feel like this is something I want to do as long as possible until the wheels fall off, so I know I wasn’t ready to sit down at home.
“I feel like one of the rookie kids. First day back, new guy in the building. I’m just embracing it all right now, really.”
The trick now for Nagy, of course, is finding enough touches for everybody but with Williams here and the security blanket he offers it’s a really nice problem to have.