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Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Is there room for Williamson?

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With so much roster turnover, Troy Williamson qualifies as a survivor. Thirty-two of the 80 players under contract are in their first year with the Jaguars.
AP Photo/Phil Coale
Troy Williamson might be a long shot to make the Jaguars' final roster.

The Jaguars ridded themselves of receivers Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Jerry Porter while bringing in Torry Holt and three draft picks. But Williamson's still here.

The speedster can be tantalizing -- he can give the Jags what everyone wants, a blazer on the outside that will stretch a defense.

Yet here he is, heading into his fifth year, and he's not put together any consistent stretches of play. He managed only eight games and five catches in his first year with the Jaguars.

"Soft tissue" issues held him back and coach Jack Del Rio and GM Gene Smith both said they think those are less of an issue going forward.

"He's shown the ability to be a vertical receiver, a down the field threat," Smith said. "He's still a relatively young player in the NFL. When he did get the opportunity on special teams, he's shown the ability to cover kicks. If you're a backup receiver trying to get in the game or compete to make the roster, you've got to be able to do more than one thing.

"I think he's shown he's more than a vertical receiver he's still trying to refine his route running as a short and intermediate guy, and he's got some special-teams value to him and he's embraced that role."

Williamson, the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft by Minnesota, says he's still got his high-end speed. He knows his career clock is now at a point where pateince is thinning and that he's got to prove he has reliable hands.

"That's over for me now, now it's time for work and that's what I feel like I am going to do," he said. "I am a worker. I feel like I will always do that. I feel like this is probably one of the best offseasons I've had since I've been playing football. I feel like I've gotten a lot better. Me and David [Garrard] we've been working out all offseason. We've got a good relationship."

A couple of regular observers of the team don't see the room for Williamson to survive. Tiquan Underwood, the seventh-rounder from Rutgers, is making plays down the field and may be able to fill the same role while providing more upside. Rookie tight end Zach Miller will be split out. Maurice Jones-Drew will line up wide, too. Marcedes Lewis will get chances downfield. There may be no room or snaps for a guy who won't be in the return game mix.

But the company line at this point gives Williamson a chance, and the decision-makers seem to like him.

"I like what he's done so far and we hope he transfers it into the training camp, into the preseason and it enables him to make it a tough decision for us," Smith said. "Do we keep five? Do we keep six? Who are the five? Who are the six?"

Holt and Mike Walker are locks. It will be a surprise if the three draft picks -- Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Underwood -- aren't here on opening day.

Williamson could be left to make the case for keeping six, and six could be a lot on a run-based team.