Chargers WR Williams back on track after injury-filled 2017
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams wasn’t himself as a rookie.
Back and knee injuries limited him to 11 receptions in 10 games last season, and a hamstring injury during OTAs this year had Williams wondering when his body would allow him to show why the Chargers selected him No. 7 overall in the 2017 draft.
Finally healthy, Williams has performed in training camp like the dominant receiver he was at Clemson.
“Not being able to do the things I’m used to doing, that was the main thing. Not being able to move how I want to move. Now I’m able to come out here and, you know, play how Mike Williams plays, so I’m feeling comfortable right now,” Williams said.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt had no doubts about Williams’ ability to contribute at a high level after making 98 receptions for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Tigers’ 2016 national championship team. It was just a matter of staying on the field.
Whisenhunt pointed to the improvement Williams showed during the regular season, when he had seven catches for 62 yards in the two games against Jacksonville and Buffalo prior to sustaining the knee injury against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
“I think the thing with Mike that’s pretty consistent is when he gets an amount of time where he’s in a routine, he starts to get better,” Whisenhunt said.
A consistent schedule was lacking for Williams in 2017. He sustained a herniated disc in his lower back on the first day of rookie minicamp in May, an injury that kept him out of training camp last year. The progress Williams made this offseason was interrupted by a minor hamstring strain, but he recovered in time to run and lift weights every day and do yoga at least twice a week going into his first training camp.
The difference in Williams’ health has been evident. Always known as a receiver that uses his size effectively, he has been making contested catches consistently against the Chargers’ strong crop of defensive backs.
“He goes up and attacks the ball,” safety Jahleel Addae said. “That’s the biggest thing you see with him is he can use his body to shield off defenders. He can go up and grab it, and that’s something we need, for sure.”
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Williams’ physical traits could be especially valuable with tight end Hunter Henry out for the season because of a torn ACL. All but one of Henry’s 12 career touchdowns receptions have been in the red zone, with eight coming inside the 10-yard line. Getting Williams matched up on jump balls at the goal line could offset those losses.
But Whisenhunt wants Williams to be more than a red-zone specialist. Whisenhunt and wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan have been training Williams to line up all over the field, using Keenan Allen as the model for versatility.
“He set the standard of being able to line up in different spots and be successful, and that’s what we’re trying to do a little bit with Mike to create those matchups where we can use his size and hopefully those things can work out,” Whisenhunt said.
Route running is one area where Williams is already emulating Allen, citing him as an influence for his development there.
“He sets defenders up so good, it’s just good for me to come out here and learn from someone like him,” Williams said. “I take a lot from his game.”
All aspects of Williams’ improvement were evident when the Chargers scrimmaged Saturday as he made two touchdown receptions.
“The confidence comes with making plays,” Williams said.
NOTES: Defensive end Joey Bosa left practice early Tuesday because of a left foot injury.
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