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The Ravens always seem to find an undrafted free agent among their rookie class to make the active roster, and wideout LaQuan Williams is making a solid case to be that man this preseason.
Williams currently is second on the team with a 21.0-yard average per reception behind Lee Evans (21.3), and his 84 receiving yards – on four catches – are third after Evans (128) and Anquan Boldin (100).
As the Ravens prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons this Thursday, Williams knows his preseason finale is big, but he isn’t treating it any differently.
“I’m just going in the same way I went in last week, but I’m not putting too much pressure on it,” Williams said Monday. “This is a game I’ve been playing since I was a child. Of course, there’s more studying and practicing, but this is still the same game. So I’m just going to go out and have fun.”
The rangy 6-foot-1, 200-pound Williams has made his share of plays thus far.
There was the 38-yard reception in Baltimore’s Week 2 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs that set up a touchdown run.
LaQuan Williams Talks Preseason Finale Right Click for Full Screen Option
As the preseason progressed, Williams demonstrated an ability to quickly turn upfield and gain yards after the catch.
And last Thursday, the University of Maryland product returned a punt 38 yards in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins. That special teams explosion led to a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left.
“I don’t think he surprised us,” said Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg. “We thought he had some possibilities before he got here, and that’s why we wanted him to be on our team. And the opportunities he’s had, he’s made the most of.”
Williams was confident he could excel on special teams after a solid career in that facet of the game at Maryland.
As a senior, Williams earned the Terrapins’ special teams captain award at the end of the season.
Initially, it was the only way he could get on the field.
A former quarterback and all-city safety at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Williams made the adjustment to receiver as a redshirt freshman.
A foot injury and the subsequent recovery hampered his sophomore and junior campaigns before Williams broke out with two blocked punts and 12 special teams tackles his final year in College Park.
“I definitely had to come out and give them a good look on special teams because I was a standout there at Maryland,” said Williams, who is also leading the Ravens with a 30.5-yard average on kickoff returns. “It’s what I was brought here for originally, and Coach [John] Harbaugh is a special teams coach. So I knew first and foremost, I had to show up there.”
Harbaugh believes Williams is still a “work in progress,” but thinks he can eventually contribute on special teams.
“I think he will, but I also think he’s not there yet,” Harbaugh said. “The fact that we haven’t been able to cover kicks in our preseason games is a problem, and it means that he’s not there yet as a kickoff cover guy and he’s not there yet as a gunner. So, he’s got a lot of work to do in that area, too.”
The Ravens have a history of finding a gem or two among their rookie free agents. Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain, Bart Scott and Mike Flynn have all shared that distinction in the past.
But Williams knew he would be fighting an uphill battle to stand out among more than 80 names.
Entering a contest where Williams should see his most live action to date, the humble local kid is grateful for a shot to contribute anywhere he can.
“I just keep praying and trying to make plays,” Williams said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity the Ravens gave me.
“I also wanted to prove at this level, that I could excel as a receiver. It’s been fun being able to make some plays here.”