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Film Review: Why Mike Williams is the perfect WR2 for Rodgers

Mike Williams
Mike Williams

Mike Williams is going to feast in an Aaron Rodgers-led New York Jets offense

Two weeks ago, after it became clear that landing Mike Evans or Courtland Sutton was a longshot, I began watching some film of Mike Williams. He was impressive enough for me to believe that he should be a prime target for the New York Jets should he become available.

At the time it seemed unlikely that Williams and Keenan Allen would both be let go, but two weeks later they are both on different teams. I would have been happy with the Jets going after either player, and they ended up signing Williams to a one-year deal.

While it’s not a flashy long-term deal, it immediately gives the Jets a legit WR2 in their offense for 2024. Not only that, but Williams is the exact fit that the Jets are looking for opposite Garrett Wilson.

Now that Williams is officially a Jet, we’ll be diving a little bit deeper into his film.

In 2022, Williams was 11th of 69 qualifying WRs (minimum 60 targets) with a 57.7% contested catch percentage (15/26). He only had one drop on 67 catches and 93 targets, a good reason he was third-best (!) in ESPN Analytics’ Catch Score out of 189 qualifying WRs and TEs.

Williams is an average separator but his hands and contested catch ability really stand out. The obvious problem is that he is going into Year 8 coming off of a torn ACL, and will turn 30 years old in October. However, although Williams has only played one full season (2018), he missed just seven games from 2018-2022, which some fans seem to completely neglect.

In only three games to start the 2023 season, Williams had 108 receiving yards on vertical routes before tearing his ACL in Week 3. This is where Williams shines. As you can see, Williams was third in the NFL in RECYOE on vertical routes from 2018-2022. Aaron Rodgers recorded 6,387 passing yards targeting vertical routes from 2018-2022, which was the most in the NFL over that span.

Fit? Check. Back shoulder vertical routes and 50/50 balls will be coming to Williams in abundance this season. As Tyrod Taylor just said in an interview, with Mike Williams, 50/50 balls are really 80/20 balls.

After a deeper dive into Williams’ film, it is hard not to be tremendously excited about the prospects of him in this passing offense.

Mike Williams film review

When I watch film of a wide receiver, one of the biggest things I look for is their QB-friendliness. Coming into an offense with Aaron Rodgers, Williams will need to be on the same page with his QB when plays break down, especially in the red zone. Here, Williams shows an excellent feel for the game as he adlibs his route based on the defense’s leverage. Williams takes his crosser upfield, but doesn’t go too far- getting just behind the DB back peddling – which allows Herbert to drop a pretty pass into Williams’ arms. Williams impressively secures the catch while dragging his feet for the TD.

While Williams does not gain much separation here, it simply does not matter. With his size and hands, he does not need separation to win. Williams starts the play by running a corner/7 route. Herbert sees the corner’s back is turned, so Herbert leads Williams downfield, away from his full corner route. In mid-air, Williams adjusts to the ball and high points it for an explosive gain, even while getting interfered with by the DB. It’s a highlight-reel and-1 from Mike. Just imagining the explosives from Rodgers to Williams makes me giddy.

30 seconds left, tie game. So much of the NFL now has become improvising and being able to be successful when the original read/play isn’t there. This is a great example of Williams being a threat in that type of situation. The DB never turns his head around so Herbert, as many other QBs live by, constitutes that as the WR being open. Williams actually points his finger up as Herbert is rolling out to ask for the ball, and he gets it on his back shoulder by the sideline, making a great contested catch that locks in a Chargers win.

Here’s some good route running and ball tracking from Williams on this corner post play that originated from the Shanahan tree (included the diagram for those interested). He consistently shows good hands and effortless contested catch ability on film, and this clip is another example of that.

Unbelievable example of body control and adjusting to the ball mid-route by Williams. This is another clip showing the QB-friendliness Williams is going to bring to this offense. The ball from Herbert looks to be a little underthrown but Williams sees it, completely stops his route, and high-points the ball through contact for the deep completion. Rodgers is going to love giving him tons of these opportunities.

Against an elite corner in Denzel Ward, Williams wins in yet another contested catch situation. This clip makes it clear: If you choose not to leave safety help over the top, one-on-one coverage is an easy win for Williams. Herbert sees the weak side safety take one false step and it’s over. He calmly lofts the ball up to Williams who again does an outstanding job of high-pointing the ball, and he finishes the catch through contact. Explosive plays like this were a rarity at best in the NYJ offense in 2023.

Lastly, this play is a glimpse of how dangerous Williams can be in the red zone. On a double move, Williams again does not get much separation, but it again does not matter. Herbert does a great job throwing him open. Look at when Herbert releases the ball. Williams is at the 10-yard line! At his height, making a one-handed catch reaching down like Williams does here is absurd. Along with that, he finishes the catch through contact and gets his feet in. This is a one-of-a-kind play that he makes look fairly casual.

It is important to understand what the Jets needed to complement their superstar Garrett Wilson. They needed a deep threat like Williams. On top of that, he can also help in the red zone and is elite in the contested catch area. Throughout the film above, Williams shows the ability to be an explosive playmaker and an unguardable contested catch threat – time and time again.

As a Jet fan, I was overly ecstatic when I heard about the signing. Granted, he needs to stay healthy, but if he does, this fit is absolutely outstanding for the Jets offense in 2024.

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