By all accounts, Troy Williamson is a good kid. His failure to pan out with the Vikings did not occur because he wasn’t willing to work hard. Williamson worked his tail off. He took thousands of extra reps, responded to coaching and did everything the team asked him to do in terms of trying to improve.
At first glance, most observers would simply write him off as a talented, athletic receiver with rare speed but simply bad hands. But his problem really is not his hands.
In college he showed soft hands and consistently plucked the ball when he had to reach for it. Consistency catching the ball wasn’t even really a negative on Williamson coming out.
These two YouTube clips show highlights from his college career: Clip #1 | Clip #2
Granted, they’re highlight clips, so they aren’t going to show him dropping balls. But the fact is, he really did not drop an unusual number of balls coming out. The bigger concerns on him were how raw he was in terms of technique and how long it would take him to learn the nuances of pass routes, coverages and the finer points of the game.
Now watch the trifecta of disastrous plays with the Vikings: Clip #1 | Clip #2 | Clip #3
In all three instances, Williamson did not drop the ball with his hands. His problem was either tracking the ball in flight and/or extending his hands to actually catch the ball. In all three cases, which were typical of balls he dropped, he either tried to cradle the ball or allowed the ball too far into his body.
Even on his most successful play of the 2007 season, his 60-yard touchdown catch against the Bears early in the season (pictured above), he is trying to cradle the ball to some degree.
He most often struggles with this tendency when he’s the most wide open. It’s as if he gets an adrenaline rush of nervousness when he’s wide open not to drop the ball that he tenses up and tries to engulf the ball, instead of extending his hands and simply plucking it like he is very capable of doing.
If he’s going to turn his career around in Jacksonville, he is going to have to catch the ball with his hands more consistently. For whatever, reason, he was never able to accomplish that simple fundamental aspect of his game.
Some of the initial negatives were also apparent during his time with the Vikings. He did struggle to learn the complexities of the pro game, particularly pass routes, his presence on the field and the intricacies of the West Coast offense. He also was not particularly tough physically or mentally. He was nicked a lot and missed a fair amount of time due to minor injuries. Mentally, when things went bad, he did not have a short enough memory.
For his sake, hopefully the change of scenery will help him relax and just get back to playing football again. But being the guy who essentially replaced Randy Moss in Minnesota was far more than this small-town kid from Aiken, South Carolina could handle in his first jump to the NFL.
Good luck, Troy. And hopefully the Vikings can connect on the token draft pick they will receive in return.