“I was like his bag boy,” Williams said, smiling. “It’s all in the rookie process. Just do what the vets tell you to do, and I’ll get my shot at it one day.”
Now, the rookie sixth-round pick out of Florida International is part of committee approach by the Chargers in an attempt to fill the huge void left by Freeney’s absence. Freeney, considered one of the best pass-rushers in the history of the league, was placed on the reserve list after suffering a quadriceps tear against Dallas last week.
Joining Jarrett Johnson as the team’s starting outside linebackers will Larry English, taking Freeney’s place. But Williams and Thomas Keiser, brought up from the practice squad this week, will help fill out the rotation at edge rusher for the Chargers.
Williams knows his shot begins on Sunday at Oakland, and he says that he is ready.
“It’s not really much to say about it, but you just know what you’ve got to do,” Williams said. “You know he’s down, now what are you going to do? The spotlight’s on you. Now it’s on you to step up.”
Keiser, 24, totaled 14 tackles, 4.5 sacks and an interception in two seasons with the Panthers before joining San Diego this season. The Stanford product finished with 2.5 sacks during exhibition play.
Williams has yet to record a sack or a tackle in limited duty through four games, but San Diego coach Mike McCoy likes the effort he’s seen from the 22-year-old Miami native, along with Keiser’s work during the preseason and in practice.
“The good thing is in the preseason they both played a lot,” McCoy said. “They got a lot of experience in there. Thomas finished the preseason off with a big game. Tourek has had his number of snaps each week.
“Like all young players, they are going to get better with time. There is going to be growing pains with any young player at any position. The more they play the more comfortable they are going to get. Coach John Pagano and the rest of the staff will design certain things for them. But we have a scheme in place, and they have to go in there and produce like everyone else.”
McCoy said the organization considered signing a free agent or bringing in players from other teams to help fill in with Freeney out. But ultimately the Chargers chose the familiarity of Williams and Keiser over adding an unknown commodity who lacks experience with defensive coordinator Pagano’s system.
“It always helps when you have players who know the system, because if you bring a guy in that doesn’t know the system, then he’s only going to be able to do so many things on game day,” McCoy said. “Then you handcuff yourself to a certain extent, or you just have to wait, because sometimes you don’t activate a guy for two or three weeks until he is comfortable learning the system.”
Added Keiser: “with a 3-4 defense, the defense is more intricate, and there’s a lot more to memorize. So when you have someone who already knows the system, it definitely makes for an easier transition.”