Last year, whether it was fair or not, he was expected to fill Randy Moss' shoes. A season later, Troy Williamson, like it or not, is slipping his feet into Nate Burleson and Koren Robinson's cleats.
Williamson enters his sophomore year in purple with high expectations for himself. But unlike last season – thanks to Burleson's departure to Seattle and recent developments with Robinson's off-field troubles – the Vikings offense will be counting on his production, maybe more than any other receiver.
Last season as a rookie, Williamson, the team's first-round pick that was selected seventh overall, was eased into the lineup. An odd trifecta of inexperience, signs of lightning speed, and occasional stints in coach Mike Tice's doghouse led to a rookie season of 24 receptions, 372 yards and three touchdowns.
A year later and an offseason that included recovery from a minor hip surgery and a bout with a skin infection and Williamson finds himself and all of his teammates learning a new offensive scheme under the tutelage of an entirely new fraternity of coaches.
"It's a learning experience for everyone right now," Williamson said. "We're all learning as we go and we're picking stuff up every day. I'm doing pretty much what I did last year, but I realize I have to show up every day if I want to play at the level I want to be at this year."
Even though his offseason was less productive than he had hoped he still managed to focus on fundamentals where he struggled as a rookie.
"Route running and my eye-hand coordination," Williamson said. "That has to get better, and I worked on that a lot this summer."
First-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is impressed with Williamson's gifted speed and his newfound commitment to focus on the basics that could turn a part-time rookie receiver into a full-time contributor – and who knows, maybe even the team's top receiver and go-to guy.
"He's going to be a big part of the offense," Bevell said. "We missed him a little during (summer workouts), but he's done a nice job of coming out here and competing. We're looking for big things from him."
First impressions have been solid for first-year head coach Brad Childress. "(Williamson) is niftier, he's more nimble and he's got a little bit more wiggle than I had anticipated," Childress said.
The Vikings enter tonight's game with Baltimore with plenty of uncertainties. Whether Williamson can elevate his game to being the No. 1 receiver remains to be seen.
"I feel like any challenge that's put in front of me I have to hit head-on," Williamson said. "I feel like we have enough talent already here to do what we have to do as long as everybody makes plays when the opportunities come.
"My goal is to have a breakout year."
Williamson Hoping to Catch Bigger Role
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