So whom is Rivers going to throw it to? The Chargers also lost another receiver, Stevie Johnson, in the preseason. It was expected that the Chargers’ big free agent offseason acquisition, Travis Benjamin, would take over their lead wide receiver duties. However, Benjamin has not come close to putting up that expected production and has even caught the injury bug lately. San Diego still also has holdover veteran boom or bust receiver Dontrelle Inman catching and dropping passes from Phillip Rivers.
It is Tyrell Williams unexpectedly emerging as River’s #1 wide receiver. He has five or more catches in 4 out of the last 5 Charger contests. In the Chargers last game against the Atlanta Falcons, Williams played 66 out of 75 offensive snaps and was targeted 10 times. He turned those 10 targets into seven receptions and 140 receiving yards. However, Williams did not fare too well against the outstanding Denver Bronco secondary. He was targeted only three times in that game, and he caught all three of them for 28 yards.
But the weekend before that, he blew away the Oakland Raider secondary to the tune of five receptions and 117 yards while scoring a touchdown. Williams has two 100-yard games this season so far, and is the Chargers’ second-leading receiver with 31 catches for 526 yards. That projects to more than 1,000 yards receiving over a 16-game season. He still only has two touchdowns this season, but Rivers should find him for more red zone looks going forward. So far this season, Williams has set or tied season highs in targets, yards, and catches.
Prior to this season, Williams was an undrafted free agent and came into this season with only 2 NFL receptions. He grew up in Salem, Oregon and came out of Western Oregon University where he was labeled as a prospect showing superior size and speed. He wowed scouts working out with former Oregon State quarterback and Los Angeles Ram Sean Mannion at the Beavers’ Pro Day in March of 2015, and was signed by the Chargers. Williams made the roster, and his first NFL reception went for an 80-yard TD against the Denver Broncos.
The Charger’s schedule lightens up somewhat after their week 8 tilt versus that tough Denver defense again. Four of their following 7 opponents rank 19th or worse in pass defense. Tyrell Williams is a young player who will get better as he plays more snaps. If Williams plays up to his potential, he and Rivers may lead the San Diego Chargers into the 2016 NFL playoffs.