Mike Williams has 11 catches for 219 yards and two scores through the first quarter of the 2012 season, a pace that would put him at 44-876-8 by the end of the year. That would be a step down from his 65 grabs yet but a step up in yardage (771 in 2011) and a huge improvement in yards per catch (from 11.9 to 19.9) and touchdowns (three to eight). Given that the arrival of Vincent Jackson has essentially moved Williams from the number-one-receiver spot to a complementary role, those are fairly encouraging numbers.
The thing is, Williams has started seasons fast before. He has more touchdowns in September than any other month, even though the 2010 and 2011 campaigns included only three September games each. What Williams wants to achieve now is a faster start to each individual game.
To this point, 154 of his 219 receiving yards have come in the second halves of the Bucs’ four games. Likewise, QB Josh Freeman has 448 of his 790 passing yards after halftime, and in the last two games that split has been especially severe. Against Dallas and Washington, 293 of Freeman’s 409 passing yards have come in the third and fourth quarters.
Williams says the Bucs have to start faster, and he has to find a working connection with Freeman more quickly.
“We’ve got to get into a rhythm early,” he said. “We know that as an offense, we know that’s our problem and it’s something we’ve got to get together. We’re not getting in a rhythm early when we first come out. I think that’s a big key with our offense right now. We’ve got to get into a rhythm. It takes us a long time to get into the rhythm, then by the end of the game we’re finishing strong.”
Some of this can and should be attributed to the Bucs’ growth within a completely new offensive system run by new coordinator Mike Sullivan. Williams and Freeman had the offseason and training camp to learn the system together, but there are some kinks that have to be worked out in live game situations.
That process was evident on the Bucs’ attempt to tie the game with a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter after LeGarrette Blount’s touchdown run. A false start made it a seven-yard play instead of two, and Freeman’s quick-hitting pass into the front of the end zone sailed between two defenders but nowhere near a Buc pass-catcher. As it turns out, that’s because Freeman was expecting Williams to break his route in a different direction.
“It’s a read by both of us and we’ve both got to see the same thing,” said Williams. They kind of played a coverage where I could have ran either way. He saw one thing and I saw the other way – it was just miscommunication. He was right. When we went back and looked at it, he was right – I should have turned inside. But with us getting adjusted to this offense, later on we should be good.”
Williams is off to a good start in 2012. When a little more chemistry develops between him and Freeman in the new offense, it should get even better.