Below are three takeaways from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams' end of season press conferences.
Career years for wideout duo
Heading into the final year of his contract with the Bolts, wide receiver Mike Williams made it a goal of his to have a career season in the new offensive scheme. Williams did that and more, proving his ability to run the entire route tree and make plays all across the field.
After the Bolts' 2021 season ended, Williams recalled the very first time he talked with head coach Brandon Staley, a conversation that helped unlock even more of his game.
"He said that he wanted to flip the script and get me a lot of in-breaks, a lot of slants, a lot of smokes, to get the ball in my hands," Williams said of his conversation with Staley. "I'm a big body, physical receiver, so I feel like I can play with the ball in my hands and make plays like that. That's what he kind of wanted to do this year, flip the script by not just, necessarily, be a deep threat, but get the ball in the intermediate area and make plays like that."
Williams put up arguably his best performance of the season in Week 18 when the Bolts needed to rally against the Las Vegas Raiders. No. 81 brought in nine catches for 119 yards and a crucial touchdown that would set up the game-tying extra point.
Staley, who said Williams 'proved himself in a big way' in 2021, talked about another area of his game that was crucial to the success of the Bolts offense in 2021.
"What I also think he showed was the durability that's also important," Staley said of Williams. "I feel like being available for [QB] Justin [Herbert] and being able to grow with Justin — I think that chemistry really was on display this season because of that. That's also an important factor in being a pro player. Seeing Mike Williams in our locker room after that game, guys, that's the thing that you're not going to forget is the way that look on his face — he didn't have anything left. The way he played, it's a performance I'm not going to forget."
Williams' partner in crime and the Bolts number one wide receiver, Keenan Allen, leveled up his game in 2021 as well. Allen was named to his fifth-straight Pro Bowl and hauled in a career-high 106 receptions, the fourth time in his career with over 100 receptions in a season. Allen, who has been with the Chargers since 2013, talked about the culture change he felt in Los Angeles in 2021.
"I thought the culture has changed," Allen said. "I think we're transitioning into a winning organization, getting back to winning the division and stuff like that. I think we're trending in that direction. [Head Coach Brandon Staley] is building a lot of confidence in the culture and the coaching staff. We just have to be ready and do better next year."
Balance in the passing game
As the players on the Bolts offense put up career-high numbers in 2021, the Chargers climbed their way to the fourth overall offense in the league with 58 touchdowns and 6,634 yards.
Allen talked about how we was pleased with the balance on offense that the Bolts displayed this season.
"I thought it was a good balance," Allen said. "Everybody kind of touched the ball — [RB] Austin Ekeler, [TE] Jared Cook, [WR] Mike Williams. We both had 1,000 [yards]. Ekeler went crazy and had a lot of touchdowns, receiving yards out of the backfield. Everybody played a part. I think hats off to [QB] Justin [Herbert] being able to get everybody involved and the coaching staff being able to create the schemes to allow Justin to make those plays. I thought we did a good job."
Staley talked about how before the season, he set out with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi to create an offense built around not just quarterback Justin Herbert, but around all the weapons the Bolts have on offense from rookies like Joshua Palmer to vets like Allen.
"We have a lot of really big-time players," Staley said of the Bolts offense. "We have two of the feature receivers in the league. They both had career years. [WR] Keenan [Allen] had 106 catches. [WR] Mike [Williams] had 76 catches, nine touchdowns. Those guys had career seasons, 15 touchdowns between them. You had Josh [WR Joshua Palmer] and [WR] Jalen [Guyton] play really good complementary roles. You maximized three tight ends to get you a lot of production. Then, your running back had 20 touchdowns, eight receiving. So, I feel like [Offensive Coordinator] Joe [Lombardi] and our offensive staff did a fantastic job maximizing this group. I'm so proud of our staff."
Allen also talked about Williams' season after their fifth year together as teammates, a year in which the two emerged as one of the NFL's best wide receiver duos.
"Mike has been phenomenal all season," Allen said. "I've been saying that he's our big-play guy, our big-money guy. He makes the plays when it's time to be made. He did it all season, for the money. This was definitely for the money for him. He stayed healthy. He was able to play and made big plays all the way through. He did more than he's ever done, so hats off to Mike."
Quarterback and receiver connection
One of the key components of a good offense is the chemistry between quarterback and wide receiver, where one small miscue could be the difference between a touchdown and an interception. Herbert, Allen, and Williams showed their connection this season, especially when the Bolts needed it most, converting 64.7 % of fourth down attempts this season.
Williams talked about his quarterback's ability to convert on those crucial plays this season.
"It was big," Williams said. "There were a lot of fourth downs, long fourth downs at that. A lot of situations that we were put in that we needed a play to be made. He made some throws that I felt like a lot of quarterbacks can't make. He trusted us to go make the plays. That was the main thing, I feel that we had trust in everybody to go out there and make plays — it didn't matter who he was throwing the ball to. J.G. [WR Jalen Guyton] and [WR] Josh [Palmer] had some big plays. I think Josh's touchdown was on a fourth down, too, right? Yeah, that's crazy. Everybody was just showing up, making plays, just trying to give us a chance to win."
In just his second NFL season, Herbert showed his ability to go through his progressions and find the open man time and time again. Allen talked about what stood out to him in the second season working together.
"I think his huddle control, being able to call the plays with control," Allen said. "Understanding what he's saying. Understanding what we're calling, what we're running. Just having full control of the offense. I think next year he'll be able to do it more. He'll be able to understand what we're doing more. Obviously, it's the first year. He'll be more and more comfortable."
Bolt Up for 2022!
Secure your 2022 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.