MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Troy Williamson has spent all training camp talking about taking over as the No. 1 receiver on the Minnesota Vikings.
In the first preseason game on Friday night, he started acting like one.
Williamson caught three passes for 32 yards in the first quarter and was clearly the go-to receiver for young quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Even more importantly for the third-year wideout - no drops.
``I feel real confident,'' Williamson said after the 13-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams. ``Just have to keep everything moving. I feel I'm getting more confidence on what I have to do and how we have to do it.''
Confidence is something new for Williamson.
The former No. 7 overall pick out of South Carolina - a choice that came to the Vikings from Oakland in exchange for Randy Moss - was second in the NFL last season with 11 drops. It was a miserable, confidence-sapping season in which he failed to score a touchdown.
He immersed himself in his craft in the offseason, catching an estimated 20,000 balls to work on his hands, and even making several trips to Nike headquarters in Oregon to get his eyes checked out.
Last year, Williamson seemed to have trouble tracking the ball in the air, especially on deep passes, and would often let the ball slip right through his hands. The folks at Nike gave him some exercises to strengthen his eyes and make it easier for him to pick up the dark football against a colorful background.
He has carried himself like a different man in the first two weeks of training camp.
``Troy has been very professional,'' receiver Bobby Wade said. ``He's been taking his game to the next level, which is something he needed to do. There's a challenge to him this year, obviously, the expectations. He's facing it like a man. He's ready to play, coming out to practice and working hard.''
On Friday night, he gave fans and teammates a reason to be optimistic for the coming season.
``It was fun to go out there and see Troy make catches, and Bobby and all of those guys,'' Jackson said.
On the Vikings' first drive of the game, he caught a 5-yard comeback route on the sideline, and made a pretty lunging catch on a slant over the middle for another 16 yards.
Jackson kept going to Williamson through the next three possessions, throwing to him three more times and getting an 11-yard completion. All told, five of Jackson's nine first-quarter attempts went in Williamson's direction.
``It just happened,'' Jackson said of the pattern. ``Mostly it was just finding the open man.''
Getting open has never been a problem for the speedy Williamson, who has the best physical tools of any receiver on the Vikings' inexperienced group. If he can start hanging onto the ball, like he did on Friday night, Jackson will have the main man he sorely needs for his development.
``The chemistry is going pretty good,'' Williamson said. ``Me and him have to keep doing what we're doing, and us as receivers and the offense have to keep this thing going forward and keep moving on.''
Now it's back to work for Williamson and the Vikings offense, which did not score a touchdown but did move the ball fairly well against the Rams.
Williamson admitted he still has a long way to go to show he can be the reliable playmaker that can take pressure off the Vikings' running game. But Friday night was a step down that road.
``Boosted me up just a little bit more,'' Williamson said. ``We have to keep on going. I'm not where I want to be at yet, but the more and more I keep doing, the better I'll be.''

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