Miami Dolphins wide receiver Damian Williams will be doing everything he can to improve his standing with the team. Williams signed a one-year contract with the Dolphins in 2014 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans.
Williams, a former standout receiver at USC, had a career year in his sophomore season in the NFL in 2011. Williams caught 45 passes for nearly 600 yards with five touchdowns. However, Williams numbers steadily declined in the past two seasons, including a career-low 15 receptions.
Williams is a good route runner, has good size and good speed. With these tools Williams could thrive in a west coast offense, the system run in Miami. However, he needs to show that he is more than "just another guy" in the NFL, which is what he's been in his first four years in the league.
Williams is looking to replenish his once-promising career in Miami, but what will he need to do in training camp to extend his stay in Miami a little bit longer?
Williams needs to prove he can get open deep and beat press coverage. Williams is currently the best deep threat on the roster besides Mike Wallace, which means showing the ability to consistently get open deep will be Williams' ticket to a roster spot.
If Williams can prove he is a threat to get open deep on any given play then he will be able to somewhat replace Wallace (in the case that Wallace suffers an injury) in the sense that he will draw safety help to open things up for other receivers.
Beating press will also be important for Williams because in most situations he would likely play, Wallace wouldn't be on the field so opposing defenses would likely play press coverage without fear of being beat by Wallace's speed.
However, if Williams can beat the press and get open deep then he will be able to produce big plays and eventually force `
If Williams can prove he can field punts cleanly and consistently then he may be able to take Thigpen's job due to his prowess at running with the ball in his hands. Williams averaged 14.2 yards per return and scored two touchdowns in his final season as a full-time punt returner in 2009.
Williams needs to prove he has reliable hands and that he can catch the ball away from his body with his hands. Williams needs to prove to the coaches that he can not only catch the ball consistently but also catch passes when they are away from his body.
Williams has an enormous catch radius, but, like Mike Wallace and his ridiculous vertical jump, isn't proficient at using it. Williams is adept to letting balls come into his chest, otherwise known as "catching with the body."
Why is this bad?
Catching with the body, as previously stated, minimizes the catch radius for a receiver. This makes a receiver easier to cover as there is only a small window where the ball will be caught. Also, body-catching leads to more drops for receivers.
If the Dolphins coaches have to choose between Williams and a more natural hands-catcher such as Armon Binns or Rishard Matthews, who do you think gets the golden ticket?
Williams runs clean routes, but he must prove he is a consistent hands-catcher in training camp.
Williams needs to prove he can provide something in the return game so he could take the roster spot of Marcus Thigpen. Williams will need to prove he is just as good or better than Thigpen, the electrifying returner/receiver/running back who I wrote about in my previous MDTCP, at returning punts and kickoffs.
Special teams often makes or breaks a player's chances of making the roster when he is on the bubble. This ability to fill additional spots amplifies the worth of a player, therefore making his roster spot more valuable (like a two-for-one deal).
Williams' chances of making the roster are greatly increased by his deep threat ability, his punt returning skills and the fact that he is an outside receiver, an area the Dolphins aren't plentiful in (many of the receivers on the team are slot guys).
Even so, Williams will still need to prove a plethora of things to the coaching staff in training camp before his roster spot is secured or playing time is earned.