'X' marks spot for the new Mike Williams

RENTON, Wash. -- Mike Williams is starting at split end for the Seattle Seahawks in their first game under Pete Carroll.

WilliamsWilliamsNo one can credibly accuse Carroll of playing favorites with one of his former players at USC, either. Carroll promised nothing to Williams and the coaching staff has kept pressure on the 26-year-old. Praise for Williams was scarce, particularly early in the offseason. Coordinator Jeremy Bates, given a chance to gush about Williams during camp, instead complained about the receiver missing a couple practices.

"I was probably tougher on him than anybody," Carroll said Wednesday, "because of my background with him and knowing him and knowing inside of it and all, and probably more thrilled than anybody to see him get to this point where he’s got a significant role to play on this team now."

It's stunning to think the Seahawks released their leading receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, at least in part because they felt better about Williams lining up at the "X" position. Williams is bigger, taller and faster than Houshmandzadeh. He isn't as crafty and he hasn't proven to be consistent or dependable in pressure situations. But he has passed every test since joining the team.

Carroll shot down claims that the Seahawks have taken a step backward while retooling for the long term. He didn't say anything negative about Houshmandzadeh, but there was room to read between the lines on his comments Wednesday. My take: The Seahawks think the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Williams offers things a nearly 33-year-old Houshmandzadeh cannot offer at this point. And they see a long-term future for him.

"We just went through to figure out, in all aspects of the team, not just the wide receiver position, who are the best guys for us to play the games, who fit together with our personnel," Carroll said.

Williams, the 10th player chosen in the 2005 draft, owns 44 career receptions. He has a legitimate shot at shaking the "bust" label and that stands as an upset victory, no matter how Seattle fares in Week 1.