Technically, Andre Williams didn't make any progress at all in Friday night's preseason opener for the Giants.
He carried the ball twice and never got past the line of scrimmage, getting drilled on his first touch by the Bengals' Pat Sims for a loss of 2 and then getting tackled for no gain on his second carry.
But running backs coach Craig Johnson said there was plenty of advancement to be seen in the second-year player. Especially in the one area that has eluded him throughout his college and brief NFL career.
"I got a chance to watch him in the Combine and I would say he's a much changed player from the player I saw in the Combine coming out from Boston College to the player I see today," Johnson said on Sunday. "I think one of the greatest examples was the swing pass that he caught. It's a very difficult catch in that he did not see the ball thrown, so when he turned around the ball was on him and as a back, that's a tough situation. I would probably say in Boston College and then coming here, that would probably be a dropped pass."
Instead, it was a 16-yard gain and the Giants' first first down of the game.
"We all knew that when he came out of college he did not have a catch his last year and I can't tell you how many hours he spent on catching the football," Johnson said. "He knew that was something he had to get better at, he's done that and he is walking around with the confidence of a guy that's played [and] knows that he can get it done on this field."
Williams was the team's leading rusher as a rookie last year and he did manage to catch 18 passes for 130 yards as well. This year the Giants have Shane Vereen in the backfield to help add the dimension of receiving to the running back position, but it seems as if Williams also will get a few more chances to catch the ball.
"We try to put him in situations like that all the time in practice," Johnson said. "I know he does a lot of work with catching tennis balls and we have some drills that we do in the pregame. As I told him in our meeting today, we practice that exact scenario on the practice field. We do it as one of our pregame warmups and basically it's a blind and draw ball drill and so the backs have got to turn around and locate the ball as it's in the air, which is exactly what he had to do. You like as a coach when your drill carries over to the field. In that example it did."
Williams was able to succeed in doing it.
"I think he's worked really hard on his hands, he's going to continue to work at that, and he was able to execute the catch which allowed him to catch the ball and run," Johnson said. "As the backs know, I don't care how they get the yardage, whether it's in the pass-catching game or the run game. I want anything they can do to help us win."