Miami Dolphins

Damien Williams leads race for number two running back spot

Miami Dolphins' Damien Williams (34) runs past Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis (58) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
Miami Dolphins' Damien Williams (34) runs past Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis (58) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. AP

In the battle for No. 2, Damien Williams looks to be No. 1.

Williams is in a competition with LaMichael James as Miami’s primary backup to starting running back Lamar Miller.

Against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium, Williams made a little Dolphins history and may have secured himself as Miami’s second running back.

Williams ran the ball four times for 14 yards and a touchdown and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the first play of the second quarter of Miami’s 31-30 loss.

“It felt good to get in there with the ones and see how it’s going to be during the season,” Williams said following the game. “I’m just doing my job. Whatever coach asks me to do, I’m going out there and executing.”

Williams became the first Dolphins player to record a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same preseason game since Bernie Parmalee did it on Aug.25, 1995.

Miller played just two series and rushed for 5 yards on three carries. He also caught two passes for 38 yards, 36 of which came when his juke left Panthers cornerback Josh Norman flat on his face.

Williams, a second-year back out of Oklahoma, nearly had a third touchdown. Following a Jamar Taylor interception of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the Dolphins took over at the Carolina 3-yard line.

On first-and-goal, Williams ran to the front right corner of the end zone, stretching the ball toward the pylon. Williams was ruled out of bounds just shy of the goal line, but the ball hit the pylon. That prompted coach Joe Philbin to challenge the play, which backfired after officials ruled that Williams lost control of the ball before it touched the pylon and went out of bounds for a touchback.

That was the only real “mistake” of the night for the 23-year-old Williams, who ran for 20 yards and seven carries and caught two passes for 28 yards last week at Chicago.

With Tannehill sharp, sporting a 126.9 passer rating through two games, the Dolphins ran for a collective 88 yards and 3.5 yards per carry.

Having Williams win the No. 2 job would be preferable for the Dolphins, who would prefer to have James as their return specialist.

He had had two punt returns for 28 yards, including a 21-yard return on which safety Michael Thomas had a key sealing block.

James also played well in the second half against Carolina’s backups, rushing for 45 yards on six carries. While James is undoubtedly the more explosive player, Williams is a competent pass blocker and more of the all-around back Miami would like behind Miller.

“He’s great out of the backfield,” Tannehill said of Williams. “He runs hard. He steps up in protection. He has all the tools you look for.”

After getting kicked off the Oklahoma football team in 2013 for violating team rules, Williams went undrafted in 2014. The 5-11, 225-pound San Diego native played in all 16 games as a rookie after making the team. In limited action, he ran for 122 yards on 36 carries.

Williams said his biggest adjustment from last season to this year has been studying more and “learning defensive fronts.” He said he’s working on being a “great visual” player and can actually visualize himself being Miami’s starter.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a third-down back,” he said. “I see myself as an every-down back.”

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