The Miami Dolphins‘ offseason acquisition of free agent wide receiver Damien Williams was a roster move that generally flew under the radar around the league. The former Tennessee Titans third-round draft pick has been mostly underwhelming during his NFL career thus far. However, the former USC playmaker may have found himself a much-needed change of scenery in beautiful South Florida.
While the Titans obviously knew Williams was talented when they drafted him, he never seemed to get over the proverbial hump in Tennessee. Starting a mere 17 games in four years – mostly because of injuries to other players – led to the public’s overall perception of Williams being that of an underachiever. Therefore, it was less than surprising when he was allowed to walk via free agency.
As a Titan, his best season came in 2011 – his sophomore year in the NFL – when Williams posted career-high numbers in starts (13), receptions (45), receiving yards (592) and touchdowns (5). In retrospect, however, those 2011 numbers were just a fraction of what was expected of him upon entering the league.
At 6-foot-1 190 pounds, the former Trojan clearly has the potential to be one of the better possession receivers in the game. His size and athleticism allows him to line up all over the field, including the infamous slot position. In addition, his hands and route-work give him an innate ability to catch the ball in traffic. Of course, these are all things that coaches love in their receivers. So the question becomes: Why didn’t Williams catch on with the Titans?
Most analysts would point to inconsistency at the quarterback position over the past four years as a major contributing factor. Since being drafted, Williams has been forced to withstand a rotating door at the league’s premier position as well as a plethora of different systems and coaches.
With Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, Rusty Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and most recently Jake Locker each logging regular season snaps during Williams’ tenure, he never had much of an opportunity to build a rapport. Obviously, that is a major concern for players trying to learn or adapt to any kind of timing-based offense.
However, now that Williams is headed to the Dolphins, he could finally have a franchise quarterback to latch himself to; that is, assuming he can make the final 53-man roster. At least he’ll have a better chance than he did with the Titans.
After all, while Tannehill has taken a beating over his first two years in the NFL (he was the most sacked QB last season), he has also proven the ability to stay healthy week to week. The former Texas A&M quarterback leads offseason workouts with his receiving corps since his arrival in Miami too. That in itself is something that was occasionally difficult for Williams in Tennessee due to their quarterback’s health (or lack thereof).
With undeniable talent and a fresh start, there is no reason to think Williams can’t re-invent himself with the Dolphins. Miami has a need for playmakers that can move the chains, and fellow slot receiver – and teammate – Brandon Gibson has serious injury concerns. That means Williams could become a prominent member of the new-look Dolphins offense by the start of the regular season.
Also in competition for Miami’s slot receiver position will be rookie Jarvis Landry. Although, with head coach Joe Philbin’s propensity for keeping rookies on the bench, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Williams’ name penciled in at the No. 3 receiver spot come Week 1.