The Raiders have been busy retooling the wide receiving corps to Jon Gruden’s specifications so far during free agency. Antonio Brown will be the highlight of this off-season but lesser known Tyrell Williams from the Los Angeles Chargers has also been added to the mix.
The 6’4 205lb deep threat was an un-drafted free agent in 2015 out of a small school in Western Oregon University. In 2016 when Chargers star wide-out Keenan Allen went down with an injury, Williams entered the starting line-up and had a breakout season to the tune of 1,059 yards and 7 touchdowns. Since then however, Williams has seen a decline in production and became expendable this off-season with the emergence of another Williams at WR for Chargers: Mike Williams.
Tyrell is an interesting talent, a big bodied wide receiver who can stretch the field and play above the rim. When he makes a great play its usually worthy for a spot on SportsCenter. But Williams has a few holes in his game and shouldn’t be expected to fully round out this pass catching group on the Raiders. Here’s a look at the newest Raider, what he does well and where his game can still improve.
The jump ball
Against off coverage Williams has the stride to eat up ground and get defenders on their heels. He also has the catch radius to make plays like the one above against Cleveland. Gotta love how Williams gets the ball over 3 Browns and rips it away for a TD. A few plays later Williams made an almost identical touchdown against off-coverage so this one wasn’t a fluke.
This time instead of throwing it up to Williams, Rivers sees the back of the cornerbacks helmet and throws this one back shoulder. Despite having a man draped on him, Williams shows off the body control and strength to again make a great contested catch for a score. These are the type of plays that should happen once every few games once he and Carr get on the same page.
Up and down route running
First lets start off with the good. Williams as stated above can eat up space in a hurry and exploits zone coverages often. He has a knack for getting in the right place when he isn’t being re-routed by a defender. This example against Eric Berry of the Chiefs is called a “jerk route.” Williams sells the shallow cross before running a deeper cross forcing the All-Pro safety to stop his feet and look like a jerk (hence the name of the route).
Williams finishes the play with another great adjustment showing off the catch radius and body control that the staff in Oakland must be high on.
Williams’ ability to separate against man coverage on the other hand is limited. In this play later in the game against Kansas City, Williams runs a stop route at the bottom of the screen. A tendency bigger wide-receivers have is to stop and wait for the ball to arrive in rhythm because they think they can box out a smaller corner.
The correct way to run this route however to come back to the ball and help your quarterback out who might be affected by the pass rush or a bad snap etc. In the NFL not everything is going to be perfectly timed and Williams did Rivers no favors on this route, allowing it to be broken up after a challenge revealed Williams hadn’t maintained full control before hitting the ground.
This is another example against man coverage where Williams put his quarterback in a bad situation. His route stem down field doesn’t fool the corner into thinking he’s running deep. Williams breaks to the sideline at the 30 yard line but rounds off his break at the top of the route and ends up at the 34 yard line. Those 4 yards allowed the corner to break on the route and be in position to make an INT.
When you watch Williams during the 2018 season, too many times did you see this happen where Rivers wanted to trust the big wide-receiver but ended up throwing interceptions due to Williams not being able to create separation against man coverage.
Williams can be a solid role player for the Raiders and is capable of a big play every now and then. For his size, Williams is not an impactful run blocker either and throughout the 8 games reviewed for this article, there were no examples of him springing a back free for a gain. He is not a true number 2 to Antonio Brown and the Raiders need to still address the wide receiver position in the draft. At best, Williams can regain his 2016 form and be a player who gets yardage in big chunks like what was envisioned for Martavis Bryant.