The Jaguars hope the talents that made wide receiver Troy Williamson the seventh pick of the 2005 draft will surface in Jacksonville. Williamson has been acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings, in exchange for the Jaguars' sixth-round draft pick this year.
Jaguars Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Mike Tice was the Vikings' head coach when Williamson was selected in the '05 draft. He was picked with the choice the Vikings received from the Raiders in the Randy Moss trade.
"We came down to (Shawne) Merriman and Williamson and we had just lost Moss. Unfortunately, I got fired and never got to see (Williamson's) development," Tice said. "The guy can run. I saw a humble kid who was bigger than I thought and could blow the top off any defense. He was starting to learn."
Williamson caught 24 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season. He improved to 37 catches in 2006, but none were for touchdowns and his yards-per-catch average dropped as his dropped-passes count began to increase.
Playing on a team that was 28th in the league in passing, Williamson's career fell on hard times this past season with a mere 18 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown, a 60-yarder. Dropped passes continued to increase and the worst part was that Williamson was dropping deep balls that, had they been caught, would've resulted in touchdowns.
So what happened? How is it that a player drafted so high could fall so hard in three short years?
It didn't help Williamson that he was immediately cast in the role of being Moss' replacement. It also didn't help ease that pressure that Williamson was the highest-drafted receiver in Vikings history.
"Many studies have been done that there isn't much immediate impact with first-round wide receivers. You see some pick up in their second year and in their third year they take off," Tice said.
The Jaguars are hoping Williamson will take off in his fourth year, which would be in Jacksonville this season.
Williamson came into the league as a junior eligible from South Carolina. He'll turn 25 in April. The Jaguars probably like his youth as much as his speed, which has always been Williamson's calling card.
Jaguars wide receivers coach Todd Monken watched tape of Williamson and apparently believes it's reasonable to believe Williamson's career can be salvaged.
"He's certainly explosive. He'll play physical and can get down the field. His troubles in catching the ball have come down the field when it was obvious he was going to go the distance. That's the thing that's been discouraging; that he could get behind you but couldn't finish," Monken said.
"You have to believe you can improve those areas that have been deficiencies. We believe we're getting a good kid who has rare speed and will practice. You have to believe in yourself as a coach that you can shrink those drops and he can make big plays," Monken added.
Monken did yeoman duty with Reggie Williams last season and with stunning results. Williams, a former ninth pick of the draft, had his best season as a pro, catching 38 passes for 629 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Jaguars are hoping Monken can have the same impact on Williamson, who the Jaguars hope will become the deep threat the team has lacked.
"He's now away from the pressure of being a guy coming in right after Randy Moss. It's certainly worth the risk. I'm thrilled to have him. You want to work with guys you think you can improve," Monken said.
"It's not balls you would think he would drop," Tice said of Williamson. "I have a lot of faith in Todd Monken that he'll be able to work with Troy."