“When he’s healthy, he can help us win,” Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “It’s just unfortunate that he was hurt most of the time [last year].”
Yes, after an underwhelming rookie season, the Clemson product is starting to look like his old self.
“I missed a lot of games, that was the main thing,” Williams said. “I missed camp and I missed the first four games. How can a quarterback get any rhythm with a receiver who missed all of camp and that many games?
“… Now that I have a full offseason, I’m out here trying to get a lot of balls. There’s a lot of motivation going into this season, not just to prove to everyone else, but to prove to myself. I know I’m capable of playing in this league, so I just have to go out every day and compete.”
Selected No. 7 overall by the Chargers in last year’s draft, Williams is attempting to bounce back from a disappointing rookie season in which he finished with 11 receptions for 95 receiving yards in 10 games played.
Williams missed all of training camp and the first month of the regular season in 2017 with a lower back disc herniation he suffered on the first day of rookie minicamp in May.
He then suffered a bone bruise on his right knee while running a route in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, forcing him to miss two more games.
Williams says he’s regularly doing yoga and Pilates to help improve flexibility and relax the muscles in his back, along with the rest of his body.
“When I hurt my back from sitting out so long it got a little tightness in the hamstrings and my lower back, so I used yoga to stretch that out, get that right and get my core right,” Williams said. “So all of that stuff is helping me.”
Along with the rehab work, Williams is getting some assistance from one of the best receivers in the NFL on a regular basis in teammate Keenan Allen.
“He helps me a lot,” Williams said about Allen. “Just out here now on every break point he’ll let me know, ‘Oh, that’s too many steps at the top,’ or ‘Yeah, that was a good one right there.’
“Watching film, he’ll look over, tell me that I should stem all of my routes like that and make all of my routes look the same -- just little stuff. We’re all in the same room, and he’s a Pro Bowler, so all of us pretty much look at him and look at his routes because he knows how to get open in this league. Everybody takes a lot from him and puts it in our own game."
“We’ve got some of the best corners in this league,” Williams said. “So I feel like going against those guys in practice, the games should be easy. I know we’re going to see some good work in practice, and I’m looking forward to it.”
As for the doubters after his rookie season, Williams believes he will perform in Year 2.
“It is what it is,” Williams said. “Even when you’re doing good, you’re going to have haters. Haters are going to hate. Somebody has to hate on you to keep you going. So I appreciate all the haters. But Mike Williams is going to be on top next year, and they’re going to be on the bandwagon. So we are going to take it like that.”
Count Chargers GM Tom Telesco as a believer. Telesco selected Williams in the first round last year because of his immense talent and production at Clemson.
Williams finished with 98 receptions for 1,361 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns his final season with the Tigers, including eight catches for 94 receiving yards and a touchdown in a win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“When you are a first-round draft pick, you get hurt right away and you’re a skill position player ... because everybody loves fantasy football that was a lot of pressure on him,” Telesco said. “And he handled it really well.
“He was very mature with it and worked hard to get back on the field. Now, once you get back on the field, then he has to earn the trust of our quarterback and coaches, and that takes time.”