By: Brandon Liguori
Every now and then, an undrafted NFL player proves many wrong and shines throughout the course of a 20-game season, if you care to include four preseason contests. Before the start of the 2019 season, Brian Flores’ rookie season as head coach, the Miami Dolphins took a gamble on undrafted rookie Preston Williams, a Colorado State product after transferring from the University of Tennessee.
Williams’ junior season caught attention, catching 96 passes for 1,345 yards, reeling in 14 touchdowns. This, of course, caught Flores’ and Chris Grier’s attention, which is why the Dolphins gave Williams one shot to prove himself. Let’s flashback to Miami’s 2019 preseason opener: a Thursday night contest vs. Matt Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium.
Yes, the Dolphins picked up a 34-27 victory, but the story of the night was Williams, who finished with a game-high 97 receiving yards on four catches. One excellent exhibition game from Williams grabbed the Dolphins’ attention. In Miami’s humiliating 59-10 season-opening loss to Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium, Williams secured Miami’s first offensive touchdown with 13 seconds left to play in the first half.
Although the Dolphins were winless through seven games, Williams was a leading receiver in three of those seven defeats: New England, at Dallas and at Buffalo. Williams’ brilliant rookie season came to a devastating end during the Dolphins’ first victory of the Brian Flores era: a Week 7 home battle vs. Adam Gase’s New York Jets November 3. Ironically, Williams suffered a right wrist injury prior to his fourth-quarter knee injury, in which Williams was carted off. 24 hours later, Flores announced Williams would miss the remainder of the season.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Flores said. “I talked to him Monday. He’s done an incredible job. He came to us as a free agent and has really grown over the last six, seven months. I was devastated for the kid and he was as well,” Flores noted. “But I told him this is just a bump in the road. He’ll be back.”
Williams’ absence resulted in more of DeVante Parker, whose nine touchdowns and 1,202 receiving yards led the team and Mike Gesicki, who blossomed tremendously after a sloppy rookie season. Adam Beasley and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported recently that Williams remains on pace to be ready for the 2020 season opener September 13 against the Jarrett Stidham-led New England Patriots.
A healthy Williams would be enormous for Flores’ offensive unit because whether the Week 1 starter is Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen or Tua Tagovailoa, Williams has proven in eight games that he belongs in the National Football League.
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