‘I’m thinking ahead too much’: Riders’ receiver Duke Williams focuses on getting ‘back on track’

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ sought-after receiver Duke Williams says he needs to get “back on track.”

“I’m thinking ahead too much,” said Williams. “I’m thinking about what I could do when we get to the red zone, what I could do here and there and not thinking about that moment — that’s the main big thing for me.”

The six-foot-three, 223-pound target has started six of the Riders’ eight games this season and caught 23 of his 47 pass targets for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Before the bye week, Williams saw 11 targets, catching five for 39 yards and did not find the end zone against the B.C Lions.

“Honestly, it’s the most balls that’s even touched the ground for me,” said Williams. “This is new for me, so I got to learn how to adjust to it.”

The star receiver did not play in Week 2 due to an ankle injury, which means this week will be his first opportunity will play the Edmonton Elks this season. In Week 7, Williams had to serve a one-game suspension for throwing a helmet at Toronto Argonauts’ defensive back Shaquille Richardson.

“I got in an altercation earlier this year and that humbled me a lot,” said Williams. “I’m done talking, I’m just here to work.”

Head coach Craig Dickenson wants Williams to “play his style” because he has the ability to make a lot of plays.

“The argument could be made he’s the best receiver in the league, if not the best, he’s in the top three and he just needs to play within himself,” said Dickenson.

Williams is the second highest-paid non-quarterback in the CFL for the 2022 season. He impressed the team late last season after recording 17 receptions for 285 yards and one touchdown in four games following a three-year stint in the NFL.

“Sometimes when you come in and you’re paid a lot of money, and he’s certainly a marquee guy, you put pressure on yourself and I think maybe that is in some way frustrating him, but I know that he’s an outstanding football player,” said Dickenson.

Dickenson explained how his foot injury is another factor affecting him, but said he thinks Williams is starting to return to health.

“Once he gets healthy and starts jelling with Cody [Fajardo] we’re gonna see the same guy we saw last year and really the same guy we’ve seen on and off this year.”

Looking forward, the American is focusing on helping turn things around for the team one day at a time, noting there is still a long season ahead of the Riders.

“From here on, just focus on that play, that situation and continue to grind,” said Williams. “I know I’m a dog, I know what I’m capable of doing, teams around the league know what I’m capable of doing, so I just got to put it up and show them what the deal is.”

Olivia Lawrence is a University of Regina School of Journalism graduate who covers the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 3DownNation.