The Los Angeles Chargers have held three public training camp practices for fans, showing off their brand new offense as receivers, tight ends, and running backs all make plays in the passing game. Everyone, that is, except former No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams.
Based on my own eyes and reports from those in attendance at camp, Williams has been targeted twice in three days and caught just one football down the sideline. If that number is wrong, feel free to comment below, but I doubt it is too far off.
Besides, what is the difference between a target or two when the expectations are sky-high for Williams? The Chargers opted to let him play on the fifth-year option this season, a hefty price tag of $15.68 million making him the ninth-most expensive receiver in 2021. For reference and to understand the absurdity of the number: Keenan Allen will make just $20,000 more than Williams this year.
Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi raised eyebrows this offseason when he referenced Williams as the X receiver and a player who the ball will find in a way much like it found Michael Thomas in New Orleans. While fans did not expect 100 receptions on slant routes, the comment did seem to suggest the Chargers had big plans to get their former first-round pick more involved in the passing game.
As a former Top 10 pick, in a contract year, playing as one of the highest-paid receivers in 2021, Williams walked into training camp and did next to nothing through three practices.
A convenient excuse would be the team learning a new offense. Understandably, such a complex offense stemming from the Saints’ playbook should be difficult to pick up and apply efficiently immediately. Here is the problem: Jared Cook, Tyron Johnson, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler have all caught half a dozen passes and look like they have been in this offense for years. Cook and Johnson in particular have shined, each catching a touchdown of over 50 yards during Friday practice.
You also cannot blame the complexity of the routes on Williams’ slow start. Per The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan, who covered the Saints for years, Sean Payton never forced his receivers to frequently run route concepts they were never comfortable with. The goal of his offense was to find what his receivers did well and build out plays to best suit their talents. One would imagine Lombardi adopts the same philosophy with the Chargers. Williams is going to run a go, post, corner, shallow or deep crosser, and the occasional curl or comeback route because that is what he is good at. It is what he has been good at. So if there is nothing drastically new to learn, what is the hold up?
Watch him in drills. Actually, watch Josh Palmer in drills. The rookie third-round pick is quick and crisp in all footwork drills as if his life depends on it. There is a sense of urgency and precision in his craft that draws the attention of all fans in attendance. Then watch Williams, who set to make nearly $16 million this season is lazily going through drills and appears to have not improved as a route runner at all.
Fans are running out of patience and Williams is running out of time. This is more than just three practices, but rather 1,555 days since he was drafted out of Clemson. If one catch in three practices and lazy route-running drills are all fans get from someone with a bigger 2021 cap hit than DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and Stefon Diggs then perhaps this will be the last training camp Williams dons the powder blues.