Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mike Williams Effect

Mike Williams is big. He's a big man. He's got big hands. He makes big plays, and he leaves a very big hole in the Seahawks offense when he is not on the field. It took Jeremy Bates all the way until the bye week to really push Williams into the #1 receiver role after Deion Branch was traded. I wanted to get a better feel for just how big of an impact he has by comparing team stats from games in which Williams played the entire game versus ones he has been injured. The results were eye-popping, if not altogether surprising.

A few things to note: (1) I did not count the Carolina game as one he played a full game because he sat out most of that game. (2) I'm only looking at games after the bye week since he was used so differently after that point.

First, we can just look at the team record during this stretch. Starting at the Bears game, the Seahawks are 3-2 when Williams plays and 1-3 when he does not. I was very much on the fence about whether to include the Oakland game in the "Williams played" category because he missed so much of that game, but I felt the Saints game had to be included and Williams' minutes were probably comparable. If you take the Oakland game out, the Hawks go to 3-1 with Williams and 1-4 without.

Take a look at some other major team stats with, and without, BMW:



The Seahawks gain an average of 51 more yards per game, pass for 36 more yards per game, and most notably, average almost 8 more minutes of possession. That additional time of possession leads directly to fewer yards and points for the opposition. The cause and effect is not hard to figure out. If you want to pull the Oakland game from the games Williams played in, look at the change:



It's almost two entirely different teams. Did someone ask which team is going to show up on any given week? You may want to check the injury report to see if Williams is on it. Now, we all know there were other factors at play here including opponents and other injuries. Williams played twice against the Cardinals, but he also dominated the Bears and the Saints. It's hard to say this was completely due to opponent. Other injuries like Red Bryant and Colin Cole definitely played a big factor, but they were out for the win @ARZ and the loss @NO, that both were considered strong overall games for the Seahawks.

None of this is to say that the Seahawks will magically be good enough to beat the Falcons on Sunday when Williams is back out there. In fact, I have doubts about whether Williams will truly be the same player we saw before his double injury to the same foot. What it should tell people is that who plays in a game can make a sizable difference throughout the team. That might seem obvious to some, but others pile on players like Matt Hasselbeck as if there should be no asterisk next to games he plays without the services of players like Williams. In case you have not seen, Peyton Manning is struggling just a tad playing with a bunch of "Ruvell Martins," and Manning is possibly the best QB in NFL history. Hasselbeck is no where near the best QB in NFL history, but he is effected by the same things. It takes time to develop chemistry with a receiver. Hasselbeck is not a big-armed gunner who can pat the ball until someone gets a tiny crease that he can launch a rocket through. He needs to play with anticipation and timing. He has that with Mike Williams, and the numbers show how much of a difference that can make. Consider this coming week a scratch since Williams will have been out for four weeks by the time he steps on the field. If he can stay healthy, look to the Tampa game as one where we can get our next data point as to whether the Mike Williams Effect is real.

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