By: Jason Sarney
With just under three weeks until the Miami Dolphins begin their 2020 season, another week of padded training camp commences as the picture of the roster is becoming a little bit clearer. Although extremely hard to pinpoint the progress of young players, experienced Dolphins are vital to the development of this team, as the limited reps and lack of preseason games is very detrimental to those trying to earn a spot on the roster.
Although there are a few extra designated roster spots thanks to the situation we are all dealing with in Covid-19, as well as an expanded practice squad, there is not as much hype with an undrafted rookie class so far on the field as there was at this time last year.
One of the reasons why camp was buzzing in 2019 is the same that has the place rocking currently. The performance and development of undrafted second year wide-receiver Preston Williams. Simply put, unless this is your fist rodeo with this article’s author, you know the feeling and history here.This was something we all should have seen, frankly.
Let me tell you why, and we will stick to football…sort of.
Many may marvel over his footwork, and ability to create such exquisitely phenomenal catches while demonstrating jaw-dropping eye-hand-feet coordination. With a bit of back homework done, one could correlate those skills to Williams being an overall outstanding athlete. In high school, football may not have been his best sport.
The University of North Carolina, yes, the Tar Heels wanted Preston’s feet in their blue cleats on the soccer pitch. However, the 5-star recruit who was in the same football designation his senior year as now Atlanta Falcon Calvin Ridley, Williams choose the gridiron.
His skills had him in the upper echelon of prep recruits, and while initially a Tennessee Volunteer, he transferred to Colorado State after two years. However, despite the non-major school performance, this was a young man recruited by SEC powerhouses Alabama, Georgia and Auburn.
In a 2015 Bleacher Report article analyzing that year's high school receiver class, Williams was already on radars, so his success should come to no surprise despite the unfair label he received.
Yes, there have been transgressions and mistakes and the maturity and work ethic are growing, but this is a year-two player thankful for his opportunity to make good on a life full of talent.
Tyler Donohue, who penned that 2015 Bleacher Report article, had this to say about the scouting report from Williams’ prep days:
A bigger picture and story must be read for Preston Williams, as another chapter begins in his career and life. A story that is only in the initial act of what could very well be an award winning and epic career. Like any drama that unfolds, there will be a series of peak and valley moments, as we saw last season.
Williams had an E.K.G of a season that had an initial spike with several highlight catches to start the 2019 preseason and a Week 1 touchdown. Coming back down to earth on a winless team for the better part of a month and a half was certainly a low, as well as a few catch-able balls in which you can tag him with the dreaded, “drop.”
On his year rookie season to second year progression, Preston Williams said, "last year I got my feet wet." He added, "as a player from last year, a lot of balls I could have caught." He is focusing on "just overall, be a better player."
He then said confidently, "the game slowed down for me so I think I will have a better year this year."
Williams led Miami in team targets through his eight games with 60, besting DeVante Parker at the time of his season-ending injury, on all things, a punt return against the Jets Week 9 at home.
While that play injured his ACL and closed the book on chapter one of his NFL life, the tale continues with a new theme. No longer is he trying to prove he belongs in the NFL, that is clear as day. No longer is he a “question-mark,” with “character issues.”
"Not my first rodeo with the ACL, the knee injury, he told reporters. In terms of the rehab, his hard work was evident and he said, "I just came here every day, the whole summer, and worked my a** off."
What Preston Williams is, is simply an NFL starting wide receiver. A role that was predicted at this time a year ago by a small group of believers, but really, this is not a shock. The only shock is that there was a three-day period in 2019 in April, where 32 teams made a glaring omission and mistake. It is a good thing one team made up for that, as the Dolphins may have gotten the wide-receiver bargain of the decade, or at least a heavy contender for that title.
With a year under his belt, a veteran Quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick with confidence in him, as well as his health Williams is ready for 2020. Toss in a new offense with freedom under Chan Gailey, and Williams' numbers could spike in an extreme way in terms of weekly average production and targets.
On this offense and his skill set, Williams said, "learning more positions...it's more simple I can say that." He added, "I think this offense is real unique and I like it." When asked about any statistical goals for the season, Williams answered the best way possible.
What will chapter and year two bring for the young man with a million dollar smile to match his multi-million-dollar pair of extremities? Chances are, with the organization behind him, and the support system he has along the way, Preston Williams is a name that is gaining national recognition, at the exact same time this team as a Franchise, is starting to once again as well.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman and on YouTube on The Fin Addicts Network