FLAGSTAFF – A year ago, Stephen Williams was opening eyes as an undrafted rookie free agent receiver, and he eventually made the team.
Expectations are a little different now. But Williams – one of those players who definitely would have benefitted from an offseason with Cards’ coaches – is still a work in progress, even after gaining about 10 pounds of muscle and increasing his strength.
That showed against Green Bay last weekend. He had a fantastic touchdown reception, but only after making a mistake on an assignment and being unable to make a couple of tough catches.
“It was a rough start and everything wasn’t going my way,” Williams said. “My timing was a step off for everything, and toward the end, I finish strong. I have to get better from the mistakes earlier.”
Receivers coach John McNulty said Williams was improving early last season and the coaching staff was happy with the way he played in a start against New Orleans Week 5. Williams hurt his back soon after, and by the time he returned, he was far behind.
“I think where he left off he is stronger, kept his speed even though he put on some weight,” McNulty said. “He’s further ahead. He definitely could have used being here (in the offseason). But he’s been steady going along. He’s made plays when he has had chances, for the most part. He’s been a presence.”
Assuming the Cardinals keep six wide receivers, there will be a battle to make the team.
Stephen Williams figures to make it, but consistency is still the end game needed.
“There is no such thing as perfect, but you want to have a good game and play well from the beginning,” Williams said. “I know the things I need to work on.”
When Whisenhunt first got to the Cardinals in 2007, he wanted to carry just two quarterbacks on the roster in the regular season, along with a developmental guy on the practice squad. It sounded good – until Matt Leinart broke his collarbone in the fifth game of the year. The Cards signed Tim Rattay to back up Kurt Warner, and then Warner was hurt early in the next game against Carolina. Rattay had to play with less than a week’s prep, and while Warner played the rest of the year, Whisenhunt wasn’t going to do it every again.
"You never know for sure,” Whisenhunt said. “If we did go only two on the active we’d definitely have one on the practice squad to prepare. You want to learn from situations you have been in before and you would much rather have a third quarterback who was prepared to play and never have to use it as opposed to what we had to go through in ’07."
“Just for me mentally and for my guys as well, training camp is such a grind and anytime you have an injury it takes a toll mentally,” Wilson said. “I just wanted to make sure I was doing the things I needed to do to get back.”
“I don’t know a doctor who hasn’t said surgery has gone well,” Whisenhunt admitted. “Now we start the process of rehabbing.”