Vikings RB Williams: Less thought, more yards
With Adrian Peterson sitting out during the preseason this year, the running game for the Minnesota Vikings has been dismal. Jerick McKinnon has been getting the most work with the starters and is averaging 1.6 yards on 25 carries, and the team’s longest run came from Matt Asiata when he ran for 18 yards.
There has really only been one bright spot for the Vikings on the ground – Dominique Williams. He is averaging 4.7 yards per run this preseason and also has a touchdown, crediting his success by knowing who is in front of him.
“Understanding my blockers,” he said. “I’m not comparing myself to the other backs, but I try to focus on understanding who I have blocking and who they’re blocking so I can kind of get a pre-snap read of what can get me to where I need to be and what can get me positive yards.”
Williams originally signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and went to training camp with the team. He also spent the final six weeks of the season on the team’s practice squad after also spending time on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.
When he first started working out with the Vikings, Williams found himself thinking too much while out on the field. He wanted everything he did on the field to be perfect and was worried about making the team. Of course, he still wants to make the team this season, but he is going about it a different way.
“I allow myself to think in practice more,” he said. “When I get in the game, that allows me to just play. I think a lot when I’m out here in practice and the film room and even when I’m in the hotel back going through the film and just thinking a lot more there, and then getting out on the field and just playing.”
There are a few other differences between this season and last season. For one, the running back is handling coaching criticism a lot better. A year ago, Williams would get down on himself over criticism the coaches would give him, but this year he understands that they are just trying to help and he tries to fix his mistakes immediately.
Another big asset is that he is more comfortable in the system, which allows him to be more fundamentally sound. He understands how to use his fundamentals while out on the field, and when he mixes that in with not having to think as much his play improves.
“Especially the blitz pickup,” Williams said when asked what about his play has stood out to him. “Staying on that technique that coach teaches us to help us, especially as a small back trying to pick up guys that are 50 or 70 pounds more than me. But that technique will get me a long way and I’m just trying to hone in on that right now.”
Williams measure in at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, which makes him smaller than the average running back. Usually, that would count as a negative when he has to go up against a blitzing linebacker, but he actually thinks it could be something that helps him out.
“I can use my leverage and my size to stay up underneath the defender,” he said. “And I think that helps me a lot more and it kind of backs them off for a split second to give the quarterback enough time.”
A year ago, Williams had to go through the process of getting cut and the possibility of that happening again is always in the back of his mind. With teams having to narrow their team down to 53 players, it’s always a stressful time for the bubble players.
Williams even went as far as to agree to this being the toughest week of the season because of all the uncertainty.
“You don’t know where you’re going to end up,” he said. “It’s just like that cut is in the back of your mind, but last year helped me with this year. I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just focusing on the day at hand right now.”
Even though the running back has been able to put up a solid preseason – averaging 4.7 yards per carry while the team is averaging just 3.0 as a whole – he isn’t satisfied with it. He understands that in the NFL what you do is never enough and you have to keep building on what you did the day before.
If the Vikings do end up parting ways with Williams, he is not sure if he will land on another team’s roster or not. He thinks he has put out some good film, but he knows he still needs to do more.
“It’s never enough, you can never have enough,” he said. “You’ve just got to finish where you left off and keep building on it.
“It’s one of those fundamental things where you have to continue to climb and progress as you keep going through the season. And I’m still young in the league.”
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