Nobody really likes leftovers. Sometimes a meal’s tasty the second time around, but rarely do we look forward to digging into yesterday’s old meal.
The appeal of eating something new, digging into something fresh, usually gets the best of us. And as a result the leftovers typically sit in the fridge until it’s time to throw them out.
Preston Williams, who was yesterday’s young, promising receiver, feels like the Miami Dolphins’ leftovers.
He showed up to training camp in 2019 as a talented, but troubled undrafted receiver from Colorado State, and became that training camp’s must-see talent.
Williams was so good in those 2019 practices he earned a starting role right away, and held it until he suffered a knee injury returning a punt in November. He finished that season with 32 receptions for 428 yards and three touchdowns in the eight games he played, and was on pace to be that season’s top performing rookie.
When he returned from his knee injury Williams dominated training camp in 2020 as well, often embarrassing cornerback Byron Jones, the team’s top free-agent addition that offseason. He regaining his status as a season-opening starter, and caught 18 passes for 288 yards and scored four touchdowns before suffering a foot injury that prematurely ended his season after eight games.
That means Williams started 14 of the 16 games he was healthy enough to play in his first two seasons.
Problem is, that was yesterday. Two seasons, three offensive coordinators, and a new coaching staff ago.
Since then he’s had an underwhelming existence on Miami’s playmaker-starved roster. He spent most of last year in former coach Brian Flores’ doghouse, and contributed 71 yards on six receptions in the eight games he played.
This offseason Williams re-signed with the Dolphins, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, which guaranteed him $275,000. But that was before Miami overhauled the entire receiver unit, and based on his tone during a media availability on Tuesday we get the sense Williams now wonders if that decision was a mistake.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are Miami’s superstars. This offense will clearly be built around those two speedsters if they stay healthy.
Then there’s Cedrick Wilson, a free agent signed to decent money this offseason to play the slot role, and three receivers — Trent Sherfield, River Cracraft and Mohamed Sanu — with ties to the San Francisco 49ers, the organization most of this coaching staff is from and the offense being adapted.
And let’s not forget Erik Ezukanma, a Texas Tech standout Miami selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft, who is the young promising talent seemingly receiving all the reps and attention Williams once got from this organization, and fan base.
Where does that leave Williams, who has gone three straight practices without being targeted this week?
Clearly frustrated, and he expressed just that in a tweet that got him called out by new coach Mike McDaniel during a team meeting.
“I just feel like I’m not getting the opportunities that I deserve, simply scripted-wise, not being on the field-wise,” Williams said. “[I want] opportunities to show that I can beat my man.”
And he hasn’t been shy about his issues, speaking with McDaniel on a number of occasions going all the way back to the spring.
“We had a conversation during OTAs, and the only specific thing I asked him was, ‘I just want my opportunity,’ ” Williams said. “[McDaniel] said, ‘You’ll get your opportunity.’ I just want to make him a man of his word, that’s all.”
One of the major complaints made by former coaches about Williams was his limited understanding of the playbook. That was a recurring theme in private and public conversations about him for all three of his seasons in Miami.
However, it’s unclear whether or not that’s an issue today in this new offense. But it doesn’t help that practice after practice he’s not targeted during 11-on-11 drills.
”It’s a very tough deal. There is limited reps. There are 11 guys and only one guy can get the ball on each play. I understand his frustration,” Dolphins receiver coach Wes Welker said. “Preston is a very good player. He has shown he is a good player in this league. He is doing some good things out there and he will get [opportunities].
“Those opts are coming.”
And so Williams waits.
Keeping a disgruntled player is never ideal for any team, especially one with a new coaching staff that’s trying to create their ideal culture. Williams must decide if he’s willing to endure the cold shoulder he’s currently receiving from the Dolphins, or if he would prefer to be released or traded, potentially getting the opportunity to start fresh elsewhere in a new offense while rosters are still taking shape?
“I don’t care who is here. I like to complete. I want to show you how I do,” said Williams, who shed 20 pounds this offseason, getting down to 210 pounds for the start of camp. “That’s all I want to do.”