COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Mike Williams is soft-spoken during interviews, but his knack for making flashy plays has made him one of the top deep threats in the NFL.
The Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver leads the league in receptions over 35 yards since the start of last season. Williams has 11 receptions when going deep, including eight for 40 or more yards.
Williams will try to continue his success against defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City on Sunday as the Chargers play their first game in SoFi Stadium.
Two years ago, Williams caught a late touchdown and two-point conversion to help the Bolts upset the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Last year, he had a 50-yard reception on fourth down to keep a late drive alive.
“He’s big and knows how to go up and get the thing. He’s a gifted athlete,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said during a conference call.
Williams, who is in his fourth season, isn’t among the fastest receivers, but his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame makes him a matchup problem for defensive backs.
Despite missing the last two weeks of training camp with a shoulder injury, Williams played in last Sunday’s opener against Cincinnati and had four receptions for 67 yards. One was for 37 yards after he got separation from Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips before taking a hard hit from safety Jesse Bates at the Bengals 18. The long completion would later result in a Michael Badgley field goal.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Williams has the biggest catching radius of any receiver he has thrown to over his 10-year career.
Taylor compared Williams to Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry and Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins (who was Taylor’s teammate in Buffalo) in terms of being able to make catches with their bodies.
“The catches you see him make in practice and games just wows you,” he said of Williams. “It gives you trust to give him more opportunities to make plays.”
Williams struggled with injuries as a rookie, but has showed the past two seasons why the Chargers took him with the seventh overall pick in 2017. He led the team with 10 touchdown catches in 2018 and had his first 1,000-yard season last year with 49 receptions for 1,001 yards. His 20.4 yards-per-reception average led NFL receivers.
While Williams said he has worked on all facets of his game, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen noted Williams’ route running continues to improve.
“He was good (coming out of college at Clemson), but now he’s just so good at getting off the line of scrimmage and creating separation, you know, using his hands and coming in and out of breaks and leaning on guys. His ability to stick his foot on the ground and come out of breaks has been big,” he said.
The only thing coaches might like Williams to improve on is not diving so often or doing a better job protecting himself when he does. Williams’ shoulder injury happened when he lunged for a deep ball and came down hard on his shoulder. He did that a couple more times against the Bengals, which created some anxious moments.
“I try to land the correct way now but sometimes it don’t work out. I just try to make a football play,” Williams said.
Notes: DE Joey Bosa was among four players who did not practice. He suffered a triceps injury during the second half against Cincinnati. RB Justin Jackson (quadricep), C Mike Pouncey (hip) and TE Donald Parham (illness) also did not participate. … G Trai Turner had limited participation in practice after missing last week’s game due to a knee injury. Coach Anthony Lynn said the plan was to bring Turner slowly up to speed in hopes of playing Sunday. … CB Casey Hayward was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week He was credited with a team-high 12 tackles in the win over Cincinnati.
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