As much as I know you're interested in another Jim Harbaugh item -- thanks for reaching out, by the way -- this particular venture into the NFC West mailbag is taking us in another direction. My sincerest apologies in advance.
2011 Pass Attempts by Direction
"You get past the Oprah part of it, the feel-good part of it, you are looking at a player who has to do better," Williams said in June 2011.
Williams did not do better in 2011. He caught only 18 passes, down from 65 in 2010. The feel-good part of the story has passed for everyone. Now, there are no assurances Williams will figure prominently into the offense or even earn a roster spot, depending upon what happens in training camp.
Russ from Portland cuts Williams slack for his diminished production. He thinks a quarterback change will help Williams bounce back this season. He thinks Tarvaris Jackson didn't see the field very well. He thinks Jackson too often failed to survey the left side of the field, costing Williams.
"I think if Matt Flynn wins the starting spot, Williams will have a resurgence because Flynn would see more of the field," Russ wrote.
Mike Sando: Jackson did throw to the right side a relatively high percentage of the time, but that doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on him. No one is faulting Aaron Rodgers' field vision even though he threw to the right, left and middle in similar proportions (the chart breaks down 2011 pass attempts by direction for Jackson and five other quarterbacks).
I do not recall Williams consistently gaining separation and running free through opposing secondaries. It is possible Jackson might have thrown to Williams regularly if Williams had presented a more inviting target. Also, Williams lined up on both sides of the formation, not just on the left.
Williams caught 10-of-14 passes for 113 yards after lining up wide to the left. He caught 8-of-17 passes for 123 yards (one touchdown) when lined up wide to the right. Those figures reflect where Williams lined up before the snap, according to ESPN Stats & Information. These reflect where he caught passes: 10 on the left side of the field, eight on the right and none over the middle.
Overall, Williams played 42 percent of the offensive snaps last season. The team targeted him 32 times, a low number.
We don't know how frequently Williams was open or whether Jackson should have thrown to him. We do know the offense will improve with better play at quarterback, better pass protection and with better play from the people catching the ball.
Williams' stats would be only one barometer. Zach Miller's decreased stats last season -- 25 catches with Seattle after totaling 182 over the previous three with Oakland -- demonstrate as much.