Wednesday morning's BBAO post referenced Dan Pompei's excellent analysis of the Chicago Bears' increasingly unfounded faith in receiver Roy Williams. If you missed it, here was the key line: "What he does not have is evidence, at 29, that he is a dynamic receiver."
Indeed, it will be tough for the Bears to continue justifying Williams' status with the first team unless he starts making the kind of catches he dropped on their opening offensive series in Monday night's preseason game against the New York Giants. But if you're a long-time observer of Williams' career, you know he's been up to this for a while.
It's worth revisiting two charts we passed along late last month in the middle of Scramble'11. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Williams has produced the NFL's highest drop rate of any receiver who has been targeted at least 200 times in the past three seasons. His 19 drops in 232 targets makes for a worse percentage (8.2) than the notoriously slick-handed Ted Ginn Jr. and Bryant Johnson, among others.
ESPN Stats & Information also calculates the reliability of a receiver by comparing his number of catches to his total targets. Reliability includes drops but also, to some extent, the ability of a receiver to make out-of-the-ordinary catches. Some receivers get more high-percentage opportunities than others, but over time I think this category provides a pretty accurate representation of the degree to which a receiver has proved a trustworthy target.
As the second chart shows, Williams caught 111 of the 232 passes thrown his way over the past three seasons, giving him the third-worst percentage (48.1) over the last three years.
During my stop in Bears camp, I found Williams to be well aware of the opportunity the Bears have given him. There weren't many teams ready to install him as their No. 1 receiver after his performance in recent years. His practice repetitions have been reported as uneven at best, featuring more than his share of missed catches.
Normally, no one would panic if a veteran receiver dropped a few summer passes while in transition to a new team. But when the problem can be traced back through multiple seasons, it's fair to ask whether it's a side effect or a permanent habit.