Tyrell Williams broke out in 2016 after Keenan Allen was lost for the season, leading the Chargers with 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns. He had six catches of 40 yards or longer, which tied for the most in the NFL. Meanwhile, his 15.3 yards per catch ranked 12th in the league.
A healthy KA13 naturally led to a decrease in touches for the 6-4, 205-pound Williams in 2017.
The third-year player still made an impact, hauling in 43 passes for 728 yards and four touchdowns.
Yet just because his stat line didn’t match that of his 2016 campaign, Williams remained one of the game’s most dangerous wideouts with the ability to take the ball to the house every time he touches it.
He averaged over a yard-and-a-half more per reception last year as his 16.9 average was the fifth best in the NFL.
Williams understands why with so many weapons on offense, including Allen who authored the greatest single season by a Chargers’ wideout in team history, his overall numbers dipped.
It would be easy, and even acceptable, to simply be content playing a complementary role to Allen while remaining one of the league’s most dangerous big-play weapons.
To Williams’ credit, he refuses to let that be the case.
If Keenan Allen is the team’s number one weapon, he expects to be 1a, putting up similar numbers.
“I had that big year a couple years ago, and then last year for myself, yards-wise and stuff, it wasn’t the same,” he said. “I still feel I had a good year, but I just don’t want to get complacent. I just want to keep attacking. With Keenan having success, I don’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, well Keenan did this, so I fell back.’ I just want to be right there with him. So I’m trying to continue to grow.”
To that end, Williams spent extra time working with number 13 since last season came to an end.
“This offseason I’ve been working with Keenan a lot, so that’s helped me build (my game),” he said. “We’re a lot different (as) players, but I take stuff from his game that I can. It’s helped me stay engaged, and then try to do that when we’re out here on the field and just work on it. It helps you keep going.”
KA13 is known for his smooth route-running and ability to make defenders look silly trying to guard him.
Thus, that’s been a top priority for Williams as he laid out his entire offseason to-do list.
“I’m always working on trying to get in and out of my break,” he explained. “As a taller guy, that’s kind of my main thing. And then just working on attacking the ball. Deep routes. Jump balls. Really just any type of route, I just want to make sure I’m always going back to the ball and being strong with it in my hands. Those are the main things. And then just the ability to decipher defenses. Leverages. Stuff like that. I just want to become more of a full football player.”
Williams already sees a notable difference in his game after his one-on-one sessions working alongside Allen.
“Footwork, routes; all that stuff (we worked on),” he noted. “I feel like he’s one of the best getting in and out of breaks, and so that’s kind of been the big thing. Just watching him. We film the workouts, and then we go back (and) watch them. Just trying to break it down and see how he does it. Then try and put as much as I can into that.”
Williams’ ability to improve year over year is one of his greatest assets. Just the other day he turned on the film from his rookie minicamp in 2015.
The wideout didn’t even recognize himself.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I feel way, way more confident. It’s unbelievable. I was watching my rookie minicamp a couple weeks ago, just watching myself and I just felt like a completely different player. I still have a long way to go. But I feel like I definitely solidified myself as one of the better receivers in the league. So I just want to keep building on that.”
So, what were the biggest differences Williams saw between the young undrafted free agent one week into his career and the established veteran heading into his fourth season?
“The main thing that popped out is just how physical I play now compared to then. I just wasn’t physical at all. I just tried to rely on speed for everything. I’m still trying to become more and more physical every year. But I think that’s the big thing. Using my body better, how I get in and out of my routes and just being a better receiver, really.”