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Mike Williams and the Slant Route: Part 1, the Bully

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Kyle dives into deeper into the Mike Williams film.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams Press Conference Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Have had a chance to dig through more Mike Williams games and I’m seeing a trend. The more contact that is initiated, the more of a bully he becomes. This will be Williams week for me as I have no interest in writing about the guards the Chargers drafted. Spoiler; they’re good. As for Williams. He’s an interesting watch. I’d describe him as better than I lead on, but you can still see the flaws that could potentially hold him back from being a true #1. Part 2 will feature his focus drops on slant routes and if we overrate drops in general. For now, let’s focus on Williams making plays through contact in 5 routes. 5 routes that all made a difference at the point in the game for Clemson.

Get your weight up

The first route against Louisville ended up as a touchdown. The result is as good as it gets. It’s the process that highlights why Williams will be able to win underneath at the next level. On the surface, it’s as simple as him being bigger and stronger than the guy who will be across from him. It was like that whether he faced Bama, Ohio State, or Wake Forest. At 6’4 218 pounds, no corner he’ll see will match up with that size at the next level. With his size, once Williams establishes inside leverage, it’s a wrap. That’s all she wrote. Here’s the play:

Williams isn’t phased in the least bit by the corners jam. Think of your little brother trying to punch you and you holding his head as he’s just swinging at air. That’s what I see with this play. Williams runs right through contact and isn’t thrown off on his route at all. The corner is still trying to reroute him as Williams is getting out of his break to no avail. Williams takes his younger brother for a little piggyback ride into the end zone.

Best route of his life

This next play is, in my opinion, the best route I saw Wiliams run all year. The corner he’s facing was drafted in the 6th round by the Cowboys. It’s 3rd & 5 in the 4th quarter. Based on his alignment it’s probably a slant. Williams does a tremendous job of selling a vertical route to the outside for a couple steps, only to sharply break back to the inside leaving the corner in the rear-view mirror.

Williams wins with his feet and his hands. A nice hard chop to the CB’s hands in one fluid motion with a cut and that’s where the couple yards of separation comes from. It doesn’t look like much but this is what makes the Alshon Jeffery, although rich, pop up.

Winning Early

Another thing that jumps out when watching Williams run these quick slants is that he does a really good job of just getting inside. It seems like a no-brainer but against press coverage, it’s harder than it sounds. Below, Williams has a little bit of a cushion. Before he goes to cut, he establishes inside position. Right then, it’s over. He has the CB on his back. That’s all he needs. Once he gets position he runs the 3 step slant, separation, and goodnight.

Couple things here; Williams comfortably plucks the ball away from his frame and protects it knowing a big hit is coming. All drops aren’t equal, and we’ll talk about that a little more tomorrow, but dropping the ball at the goal line is not acceptable. Williams knows he’s going to take a lick. He might as well catch it. He catches the ball and secures it early enough to protect himself and the ball. That’s a big boy play after the catch. He’s rewarded with a touchdown.

Adjusting on the fly

Quarterbacks are going to be under duress. Even on 1-step throws like this route. The better receivers need to be able to adjust on the fly, pick up the ball quickly and secure the catch. This route is a great example of Williams coordination and athleticism. He’s running full speed one way, reaches the opposite direction, snags it, and has the balance to stay on his feet and gain almost 20 yards after the catch.

Turning into a runner as soon as you catch the ball is another underrated skill that most run-of-the-mill receivers lack. You see Williams possess that skill here. That’s impressive balance and that catch is much harder than he makes it look.

Last year was frustrating as the year went on because these are the plays receivers weren’t making. Whether it was the tough catch behind them or getting yards after the catch. It was so few and far between that, it was a shock whenever one of these two things did happen.

Bully Ball

I’d guess the main attraction to Williams was his ability to bully defenders. When you watch this play below, watch the corner. He knows what’s coming. He jumps it. But there’s nothing he can do about it. He can’t through Williams big body. He “tackles” Williams at the 7-yard line. Williams had other ideas about going down.

This is going to surprise you but scoring touchdowns is good. The Chargers were 21st in touchdown percentage in the red area last year. Bringing in a guy that smells the end zone should help. You don’t fake your way into 11 touchdowns. The majority of Williams scores were just like the play above, contested. He just wanted it more. It makes it easy to root for him when that’s the case.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the flip side, the drops. But for a team that struggles to score near the goal line and on 3rd and medium, Williams should help fix that but winning on simple routes like slants.