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Slimmer Andre Williams feels the difference in Giants' preseason opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Andre Williams on the field for the New York Giants on Friday night in their preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins barely resembled the running back that averaged less than three yards per carry last season. This Andre Williams was physically deflated, 12 pounds lighter and minus almost five inches off his waist.

Williams decided to reshape his body this offseason in an effort to save his floundering career. The early returns have been positive.

Williams ran for 41 yards on nine carries Friday in the preseason opener, which included runs of 16 and 12 yards. He appeared quicker and more decisive and was able to locate holes when they were available.

Most importantly, it all just felt better.

“I feel like I’m finding the holes a lot easier. I feel I’m able to move,” said Williams, who played last year at over 230 pounds. “I find my body is moving without my mind. I’m not thinking too much.

“I definitely feel I got a couple steps above where I was last year.”

That’s a positive because last year was a struggle. In his second professional season, Williams had trouble hitting the holes and averaged a paltry 2.9 yards on 88 attempts. It was a frustrating year.

Williams, 23, felt he was thinking less when he rumbled left, made several defenders miss and picked up steam like a freight train on his 16-yard run Friday night late in the first quarter. The combination of speed and shiftiness was impressive.

“I feel faster, but not just faster, more in control of my weight,” Williams said. “I can make my cuts stronger and pick up speed quicker. It’s helping me out.”

It’s still a work in progress though. Williams’ next two runs went for minus-4 yards. Four of his nine carries went for one yard or less.

He still ran laterally instead of in a straight line on one attempt, which sapped his power. He also pitter-pattered in the backfield on a goal-line carry that was stuffed short of the end zone.

“Definitely still have work to do,” Williams said.

The Giants remain bullish on their 2014 fourth-round pick. Coach Ben McAdoo publicly backed Williams on several occasions this offseason, and he received the largest workload of any running back in the preseason opener. Williams also slides in for some first-team reps during training camp practices.

Right now, he appears to be behind Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen on the depth chart. But not by much.

Williams is ahead of Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins.

Perkins, a rookie, flashed his potential Friday night but remains raw. A fumble in his debut doesn’t help his cause to earn early playing time.

Williams’ performance did. It at least was a step in the right direction.

“I feel like I did a pretty good job in there,” he said. “Pass-protected well, had a couple nice runs, and I think we’re working the outside zones well.”

The new-look Williams may finally be running in the right direction.