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Both Pete Carroll and Tarvaris Jackson put more effort into explaining why Mike Williams did not get the ball thrown to him on Sunday than they did actually trying to get the ball to him. Williams is a 6’5″ 240 lb beast of a receiver that is always open. He is not open in the classic sense, where he has created yards of separation from a defender. He is open because very few individual defenders can win a ball away from him due to his size, strength and hands.
Matt Hasselbeck was quick to learn this last season when Williams became a popular target, especially on 3rd downs or when a play broke down. Hasselbeck trusted Williams enough to throw in his vicinity, but away from the defender, and allow Williams to snatch the ball. He torched the Cardinals last season for 22 catches 232 yards and a touchdown. He was rewarded with zero targets, zero receptions and zero yards in yesterday’s game. For an offense that has been struggling to find any reliable paths to yardage, that is inexcusable.
Most fans will point the finger at Tarvaris Jackson, but it all starts with Carroll. The coach has put such an emphasis on protecting the ball that his coordinator and quarterback are looking for sure-bets. Throwing to a player like Williams, who gets less separation, is riskier. This is where Carroll needs to go into Darrell Bevell’s office and tell him very clearly that Williams is the exception to the rule. He needs to be force-fed. Double coverage is one thing, but that should not be a problem with Sidney Rice on the field. This offense is better off taking the risk throwing Williams’ way, and frankly, it is just not that big of a risk.
Jackson is not without blame. He knows Ben Obomanu from before college, and has a history with Rice in the NFL. Those relationships have led to more opportunities. The pressure about taking care of the ball from Carroll exacerbates Jackson’s already cautious mindset. This is his last shot in the NFL. Do you throw to the guys you know, or take chances on the guys that you don’t? Jackson must come to realize that playing tentatively only guarantees a bad fate as a quarterback. He must learn to toe that fine line between leaning forward and keeping his balance. Williams is a big part of Jackson’s potential that the quarterback has yet to tap into. That cannot continue.
Williams, for his part, deserves a ton of credit for not distracting the team from a needed win. Lesser men would have spouted off. Remember, though, he is fighting for his NFL future and reputation as well. A big drop in his production from last season will lead the uninformed national analysts and fans to assume he is back to the “same old Mike Williams.” His goals were to shatter that perception with a stronger second year, and he came back in great shape to do that. Expecting him to sit back and watch receivers like Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate to get more looks than him without making a fuss is unrealistic, especially if the team loses as many games as seems likely. Williams wants to be a leader on the team, and is doing the things off the field to back that up. His coach and quarterback need to do their jobs and help him be the leader he deserves to be on the field as well, starting with this next game.