Mike Williams career average after his first two seasons in the NFL was 13.3 yards per catch. Through the first four games of the 2012 season, he is picking up a whopping 19.9 yards per reception.
Something, or some things, have obviously changed between the end of last season and the beginning of this one. One might be able to determine a handful of factors that have pumped up the big-play element in Williams’ already strong game, but he thinks he can sum it up in just two words.
“Well…Vincent Jackson,” said Williams on Wednesday, and we’re not counting the “well” because it simply set up a grin and a short pause for effect. It’s clear that the former 2010 fourth-round pick feels like his whole environment has changed since the Buccaneers spent big for Jackson last March. The former San Diego Chargers big-play producer stepped right into the lead role in the Bucs’ passing game and that has had quite a trickle-down effect on Williams and others.
“Having that guy on the field changed a lot for a lot of people,” said Williams. “Him working with me off the field, in the film room, teaching me what to do after practice, things like that…Vincent Jackson.”
Williams ranks second in the NFL in yards per catch among all qualifiers (at least two catches per game), trailing only T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, who has an average of 20.6 yards on just eight catches in four games. What’s interesting is that Williams barely leads his own team in that category; Jackson is sixth on the NFL list with an average of 19.0 yards per grab.
The Buccaneers are the only team in the NFL with two players in the top 10 in yards per catch so far. The Giants are the only other team that even has two in the top 15. Williams, who caught a 65-yard pass against Washington when he beat press coverage on the outside and had no safety over the top to contain him, knows he has benefitted from defenses paying more attention to Jackson. That could change if Williams keeps producing, but he hopes opposing defenses don’t catch on too soon.
“I told him that,” said Williams, suggesting that Jackson might be the one getting single coverage soon. “I told him he better get his stuff together. I actually don’t want him to, though, so I can keep [getting single-teamed]. No, as long as we get the win, it doesn’t matter to me.”