When the Redskins made final roster cuts before the 2011 season, head coach Mike Shanahan hoped to sneak running back
But after flashing too much talent his rookie season, Williams was claimed by the Lions and the Redskins were out of luck.
“When Detroit picked him up, I was very disappointed because I thought he could play both the fullback and halfback position and play it well,” Shanahan said. “Here is a guy about 230 or 235 pounds that can run that 4.5 [40-yard dash] range, a good blocker, good runner, just liked the way he handled himself.”
Williams shared similar good will toward the organization, knowing that he did everything necessary to hang around.
“I kind of always felt like I left here on good terms and was very respectful to anyone,” Williams said. “So I felt like if I was ever in that situation where I got cut again, that the Redskins would come and get me.”
Which is precisely what happened before last Sunday’s game, as the Lions elected to part ways. It didn’t take long for the Redskins to come calling.
“When he did become available, we thought it was as good option for us,” Shanahan explained. “Keiland is very bright. He had a good first day. He will pick [the game plan] up quickly.”
With only two other running backs on the active roster, the Redskins will need Williams to be ready to go on Sunday. According to his coaches, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’re real confident in Keiland--that’s why we brought him back,” said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. “Keiland is a really smart player and has a chance to help at everything. He’s been a third down back for us. In 2010, we had a few injuries to where he started a few games for us as our starting running back.
“The second year he was here he played fullback throughout the preseason also. Keiland is capable of helping in any area we need him.”
Williams’s addition came at the price of former All-Pro running back Ryan Grant, who was on the team for four weeks and active for one game. According to Shanahan, Grant did nothing wrong—he just wasn’t as versatile as Williams.
“He’s a good player. I like Ryan Grant,” he said. “He took advantage of the opportunities when he was here but I think he will get picked up by somebody else. If not and we lose another running back, he’d be a guy we’d consider because he came in here and really did a good job for us.”
Williams appeared in 15 games as a rookie in Washington, recording 39 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
During his time in Detroit, Williams appeared in 20 games and rushed for 198 yards, two touchdowns, and another 71 yards through the air.
Despite the decreased production by the numbers, Williams feels like a much better player on his second trip to Washington.
“All-around, I feel like I’m better,” he said. “Having a few years under my belt, being more comfortable and having the understanding of what it takes to be a productive player in this league.”
For now, Williams is grateful to be back in the place where he began his career two seasons ago.
“No one wants to go through the process of being cut or traded or anything, but you know if you do, you’d rather go back to where you started,” he said. “I’m thankful for that.”