Mike Williams off to a Good Start in 2021

Mike Williams
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Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams came into the fifth and final year as a bit of a low-key question mark. Despite being a solid contributor as the second overall wide receiver for the Chargers opposite Keenan Allen, he had not quite lived up to his seventh-overall billing back in 2017 – and given that, he might end up being too expensive for the Chargers to keep around. It was telling that the Chargers did not extend him this off-season and exercised his fifth-year option instead. However, he has been off to a quite good start this year through two games. And while it is still anybody’s guess as to whether he will be in a Charger uniform in 2022, he is reminding us what he is capable of.

Mike Williams off to Good Start in Contract Year

Background

Williams did essentially nothing in his rookie year in 2017 due in part to injury. He was much improved in 2018, bringing in 43 catches for 664 yards and ten touchdowns. This was capped by a three-touchdown performance against the Kansas City Chiefs including a game-winning two-point conversion in a game where Allen got injured early, thus seemingly proving he was capable of handling the workload as the primary receiver.

2019 proved to be his best season as he had his first (and only so far) 1,000-yard season – barely, capping at 1,001 yards. Notably, he averaged an absurd 20.4 yards per catch. He was used primarily as a guy for catching deep passes and 50/50 balls, and he was quite effective in this role.

2020 was a bit of a relatively downer year for him, which leads us to this point where he is needing a good season in his contract year. He finished with 756 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad numbers by any means, but not what one would hope for coming off a 1,000-yard season – keeping in mind that he was a top 10 draft pick. Justin Herbert didn’t seem to develop chemistry with him as quickly as he did with Allen, but also coach Anthony Lynn did not seem very interested in using him beyond that deep threat role.

2021 (So Far)

So far Mike Williams has been better this year. In Week 1 he caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. There were a couple of drops in there, but the touchdown ended up being the final in the game and thus a game-sealer. He avoided the drops in Week 2 and pulled in seven catches for 91 yards and another touchdown.

The noticeable difference has been that there have not been so many of the big downfield plays. The new offense is allowing him to be used for short and intermediate passes as well now, which he is proving to be good at as well – plus, Herbert seems more comfortable throwing to him now, given that he has almost the same number of targets as Allen (18 to Allen’s 19 targets).

If Williams keeps this up, it’ll be good for the rest of the offense as well; the defense will be forced to consider more than just shadowing Allen. It gives Herbert one more reliable target rather than relying overly on Allen (which usually is not a bad thing, but it never hurts to have more options). This all can also help to open things up for Jared Cook and the backup wide receivers as well as Austin Ekeler out of the backfield.

In Closing

Coming into the start of 2021, Williams’ future with the Chargers seemed to be slightly in doubt; and it was difficult to know what to expect from him this year. However, he is off to a hot start and is looking to be a big contributor this season (especially given that he has scored both passing touchdowns so far). If he keeps this up, he should be on his way to a nice payday no problem, regardless of which team it comes from.

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