Damion Willis is among a crowded group of receivers vying for a spot on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 53-man roster. And he is not leaving anything to chance.
Against the Giants on Thursday night, Willis had three receptions on six targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. His longest catch went for 33 yards, and he averaged 18.3 yards per catch.
Damion Willis is fun. (Flag was defensive PI). pic.twitter.com/8CeLmWKBKR— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) August 22, 2019
Willis, a 6-3, 204-pound standout from Troy University, is among five receivers vying for what will probably be three remaining slots. A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Alex Erickson are in. The rest is up for grabs, but Willis has already gotten the attention of his head coach.
“Damion’s got a knack for the ball,” Zac Taylor recently told Geofff Hobson of Bengals.com. “It’s no surprise that when we put the ball down the field, he’s got that radar where he can get underneath and go track those balls down. Damion has been impressive.”
The week before against the Redskins, Willis recorded five receptions for a team-high 59 yards. He had only one reception for four yards on three targets in the preseason-opening loss to the Chiefs, but has been coming on strong ever since.
“At practice, I’ve been getting a lot of reps,” Willis said after the game. “So I was getting real comfortable with the system. So, when I got to the game, it’s kind of easy.
“I’m not gonna take everything and make it too big. I’m gonna just stay level-headed and stay humble.”
Willis, an undrafted free agent, made his mark on the football landscape as a senior when he finished with 56 receptions for 876 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named to the All-Sun Belt First Team as a senior, and led the conference in catches of 40-plus yards and 30-plus yards. Willi ranked seventh nationally with seven 40-plus yard receptions and 12th with 10 catches of at least 30 yards.
”D. Will has done a great job,” quarterback Andy Dalton said in an interview with WKRC. “To be undrafted and come in and show some promise early, that’s pretty big.”
While Willis has been making the most of his opportunities, he is not alone. The final decision is not going to be an easy one. Eight different wide receivers had catches against the Giants, along with three running backs and three tight ends.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of different things we can do and a lot of different ways to attack defenses,” Dalton said.
Although it is a spirited competition, the receiving room is a tight one, and each is pulling for the other to succeed.
“We’ve all just been taking advantage of every opportunity that comes our way,” Josh Malone said. “Coach’s been putting us in good positions to make plays.”
.@JakeDolegala9 and .@Willis_dakid15 connected for their first career TD tonight, Damion pulled out the Baby Dance and here's what they had to say about it #Bengals #WhoDey @WLWT pic.twitter.com/ZmCXpNqUVb— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) August 23, 2019
And Willis has been making the plays when it counted. But will it be enough?
“Hopefully, I make it,” Willis said. “Hopefully, Coach gives me the opportunity to be on the roster. That’s all I’m gonna say on that one.”