Receivers coach Karl Dorrell explains why coaches are so high on Preston Williams, says Jakeem Grant will be a busy man in 2019 and gives more insight in his corps.
DAVIE — Rookie Preston Williams was the talk of training camp for the Dolphins, then had 97 receiving yards in the preseason opener, then all but disappeared in the next three exhibitions.
Tuesday, Dolphins receivers coach Karl Dorrell offered an interesting explanation as to why, one that says the coaches think as much about Williams’ potential as fans.
“We are excited about Preston,” Dorrell said. “I don’t think there has been any regression. I think sometimes we don’t give guys as many reps as the progression of the preseason goes because he has shown us enough in practice about what his abilities are and how we think he can help us offensively.”
Five words in the middle of that quote — “he has shown us enough” — might speak volumes as to what we might see out of Williams in 2019, especially now that Kenny Stills has been traded to Houston.
Williams was targeted five times and caught four passes for 97 yards (a 24.3 average) against Atlanta, with each catch having a higher degree of difficulty than the last.
It might be a stretch to say the Dolphins stashed Williams after that in order to spring him on Baltimore in the opener Sunday. Although Williams caught only one more pass in preseason, a 7-yarder in Game 2 against Tampa Bay, he was targeted six times. Then, Williams was shut out on two targets against Jacksonville and held out of the finale against New Orleans.
Williams was undrafted out of Colorado State but arrived with an impressive set of numbers. He’s 6-feet-5, 218 pounds. His senior year, he caught 96 passes for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns. If not for off-field issues, he would have been invited to the NFL Combine and would have been drafted.
“When we did our evaluation that we had before the draft, we saw this big, athletic kid that had some really good versatility for his size,” Dorrell said.
When the draft ended and Williams hadn’t been picked?
“We said, ‘Wow, here is a great opportunity to work with a guy that has tremendous potential,’ ” Dorrell said.
And since then?
“Well, he lived up to that,” Dorrell said. “He is a fun kid to coach — a very bubbly personality, very confident kid. I think he has got a long way to go in terms of understanding his complete skillset, but I think he is a guy that will be a really good player in this league in time. He proved that over the course of the spring and got better and better.”
The loss of Stills changes the dynamics of the receiving corps. Dorrell touched on the remaining receivers and where the Dolphins go from here:
— Has DeVante Parker put injuries behind him, at last? Maybe not.
“He had a great spring and a great camp,” Dorrell said. “He got a little bit nicked up in the middle of camp but he is back full speed now and we are excited to get going and get started this week.”
— Coaches plan to get plenty of mileage out of Jakeem Grant, who is coming off a leg injury. Danny Crossman, the special teams coordinator, confirmed that Grant is looked upon as the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner.
“We think he’s a dynamic player,” Crossman said. “We talk about guys with elite quickness, elite speed and a history of scoring touchdowns. That’s what you’re looking for, and that’s what he brings.”
Dorrell, meanwhile, sees multiple uses for Grant in the base offense. That includes lining up on the outside and in the slot.
“I think he has a really good skill set to play both, to be honest with you,” Dorrell said. “The previous staff did use him primarily on the outside, I think, and I think for ourselves, we are going to use him both inside and outside. He has done enough in his development from what I have seen to do some of those things outside very effectively. We are going to also utilize his skillset because he is such a dynamic runner with the ball in his hands, that he will play in the slot as well.”
— Although the Dolphins don’t want to rush Albert Wilson back from a hip injury, there is a bit of a race to see if he can suit up vs. the Ravens. Wilson has said he sees no reason that can’t happen.
“It’s kind of in a hurry-up fashion now because he has missed most of the spring and camp,” Dorrell said. “But I am excited that he is back healthy again.”
— Allen Hurns made the cut over Brice Butler and Isaiah Ford. Why?
“He came in here actually mid-camp with an opportunity to learn our offense and had to do it at such a fast rate, that he came in and did some nice things,” Dorrell said. “It was a tough decision.”
Dorrell added that Hurns appears healthy after being hurt last year.
— Regarding the overall makeup of the group, Dorrell would not say Parker is the team’s No. 1 receiver, nor would he say anyone needs to be.
“Right now, I won’t say there is anybody that is slated that way,” Dorrell said. “Our offense is, if you have seen this system and even the Patriots, they have a number of different guys that play a number of different roles and don’t necessarily have kind of that guy.”
On any given Sunday, Dorrell added, anyone is liable to take on that role.
“Whoever is the hot guy that particular game may have eight catches,” Dorrell said. “Whoever is not, may not.”
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