Technically, Andre Williams didn't make any progress at all in Friday night's preseason opener. At least not as a rusher. 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 being tackled for no gain on his second carry.
But running backs coach Craig Johnson said he could see improvement. And Williams? Well, he could just plain see.
Williams underwent photorefractive keratectomy surgery, or PRK, to correct his vision to 20/20 in mid-March. He said it has made a huge difference in the part of his game that has been a detriment throughout his college and brief NFL career -- catching the football.
"Now that I don't have to wear contacts anymore, my eyes are focusing on the ball better," Williams said. "They're not as tired or strained from the contacts. I also don't have to worry about getting knocked in the eye and having my contact get loose or fall out or something like that."
So when Eli Manning threw a quick pass to Williams against the Bengals, he was able to look the ball into his hands and make the grab for a 16-yard gain and the first first down of the game.
"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. "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."
It wasn't this time.
Williams hasn't relied solely on lasers to improve his eyes. He does drills as well, wearing funky, teched-out glasses that flash different colors at him and block out light in intervals while footballs and tennis balls are tossed his way.
"I realize it's helping me track the flight of the ball better," Williams said. "The work has been paying off. It's definitely shaping up from last year."
Williams was the team's leading rusher as a rookie last year and he did manage to catch 18 passes for 130 yards. This year the Giants have Shane Vereen 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 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."
And finally can see the ball clearly.
"It's nice," Williams said of not only the football benefits but also of waking up being able to see and not having to worry about taking out his contact lenses at night. "The best money I ever spent so far."