Williamson Catches a Shot of Confidence

Troy Williamson ended a two-year touchdown drought, and he and the Vikings are hoping for more explosiveness from their passing game as teams stack players to defend Adrian Peterson and the running game. See what Williamson, Tarvaris Jackson and the coaches had to say about the matter.

It's been a while since Troy Williamson has been able to get behind a defensive back, catch the ball and run free. More specifically, it's been two years.

Williamson's last touchdown was on Oct. 2, 2005, a garden-variety 16-yarder from a different quarterback running a different offensive scheme. Since then, it hasn't been a very productive run for one of the team's No. 7 overall draft choices.

Until Sunday in Soldier Field, when the speedy receiver, who has dropped his share of passes and been the subject of much eye-specialist speculation, actually got behind a defensive back (safety Adam Archuleta), really did catch the ball and actually was able to use his speed to outrun the defense for a 60-yard touchdown. It was the longest of his three career touchdowns and the longest catch of his professional career.

"It was good to make a play like that and keep on going," said the low-key University of South Carolina product. "Any time you make any kind of play that helps your team win, it's going to do something for you."

The Vikings have been trying to get those kind of plays from Williamson ever since he was their first-round draft pick in 2005 – the "Randy Replacement" pick to help fill a deep-speed gap left sorely open since the Vikings boldly traded Randy Moss.

"With Troy, you can't really gauge his speed sometimes," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who never had the opportunity to throw a ball to Randy Moss and witness his speed in person. "(Williamson) might be running this fast right here, but when the ball gets in the air, it's like he has another gear. No matter how fast he is running, he always has an extra gear. So it's kind of hard to gauge his speed sometimes because he is so fast. You don't find too many guys as fast as him."

After two touchdowns in the first three games of his career and 13 catches in his first four games, Williamson's production fell dramatically for the rest of his rookie season, when he caught more than one pass in only two of the eight remaining games in which he played.

Last year, Williamson came into the year with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive scheme. His catches increased from 24 in 2005 to 37 in 2006, but his longest play of the season was a 46-yard reception in the season opener at Washington. He had a 30-yarder in the second game of the season and then nothing longer than 22 yards and none of them touchdowns.

This year, with Jackson's strong arm throwing the passes, the quarterback believes the deep connections should be there more often.

"I should be able to (complete it) every time we call it. We need to be able to hit him," Jackson said. "And then when we do call it and it is not there, be able to still get a completion out of the play. That play did help stretching the field out. Stretching the ball down the field will help a lot in order to keep that extra guy out of the box. That will help our offense a lot. And then having the running game should help us outside too. Bringing the extra guy in the box should help us with our play-action game and help us outside as far as having that one less guy to worry about in coverage back there deep."

With the Vikings' newest seventh overall draft pick, Adrian Peterson, running circles around defenses, Williamson should stand to see more opportunities come his way. It will be up to him to make the catches. . "The run game definitely helps, but to be able to hit that pass, I don't know if people are quite scared when you are throwing them down there even when you've got a guy wide open and you miss it," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "You've got to be able to take advantage of it and hit him, and that was one that we hit. We were able to get a big play out of it, but I think they were still stacking the box trying to stop that run at that point, but it helped out with some other plays down the road."

Jackson expects the Dallas Cowboys to continue to bring more defenders closer to the line of scrimmage in an effort stop Peterson and Chester Taylor – who combined for 307 yards rushing against Chicago – and make the young quarterback prove he can continue to connect with receivers like Williamson down the field.

"If they are smart, that is what they will do, throw all those guys in the box. Three hundred and some rushing yards last week, it's just the right thing to do," Jackson said. "If you are a good defensive coordinator, I am pretty sure you'll put all those guys in the box and make me and the receivers beat you outside, so that's expected."

Likely, that will be expected until – or if – the Vikings can consistently get more explosive plays out of their passing game.

"I think they need to see it every week, and I would go back to even here when Randy Moss was playing and Robert Smith was playing – they just didn't feel like they could play with eight people in the box to stop the run," head coach Brad Childress said. "They had to play from a two-deep shell and had to re-route a guy like Randy, and consequently Robert was a good running back, but it's easy to run when the numbers aren't on the defensive side. People had to do that or it was kind of pick your poison. Do you want to let that guy run by you or do you want to tackle a run?"

Eventually, Williamson and the Vikings hope they can provide such a quandary for opposing defenses.


Like Wednesday, LB Vinny Ciurciu (ankle) and FB Naufahu Tahi (knee) did not participate in Thursday's practice and QB Tarvaris Jackson (groin) and DE Erasmus James (shoulder) were limited. After having limited participation on Wednesday, S Dwight Smith (hamstring) did not practice on Thursday.

For the Cowboys, WR Terry Glenn (knee) is out, CB Anthony Henry (ankle) did not participate, while CB Courtney Brown (biceps), S Keith Davis (shoulder) and FB Oliver Hoyte (neck) participated fully. That is exactly the same injury report the Cowboys submitted on Wednesday.

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