Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams is having a productive season operating as the team's No. 2 threat in the passing game behind Vincent Jackson, the Bucs' headline-grabbing acquisition of the offseason.
Given that Jackson ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per catch over the seven seasons he spent in San Diego, it would have been natural to assume he would be on the receiving end of most of the Bucs' big-play chances in 2012. As it turns out, with Jackson, Williams and quarterback Josh Freeman all playing at a high level, there have been more than enough game-changing opportunities to go around.
Williams has made a number of downfield catches this season, several of them of the acrobatic variety over a defender in good position. That is reflected in his average of 17.6 yards per catch…oddly enough, Jackson is one of only three receivers in the NFL with a better yards-per-catch average than Williams, at 20.5.
Interestingly, Williams actually credits Jackson for much of his – and the entire offense's – success in 2012, and as the reason both he and the unit as a whole are playing with such confidence.
"I keep telling people he's one of the main reasons [for the offense's big-play ability]," said Williams. "The attention he draws on the field is a big change for our whole offense, but that's one of the big differences for me.
"He creates a lot more space for the offense, period. They've got to roll two or three guys to his side, and that opens up the running game. Or if they roll two to his side, I've got one-on-one on the backside or Dallas [Clark] has one-on-one. I think he really opens up the whole offense."
Aside from Jackson, there's another obvious teammate Williams is relying on to perform at his peak – Josh Freeman. On fire of late, Freeman has been proving to the league what Williams says he's already known for quite some time: the Bucs' fourth-year passer is the real deal.
"He's been playing great," Williams said. "I call him, 'The Truth,' and he's the truth. He's been showing it this year that he gets this offense, and we've been seeing it this last month."
Freeman's throws are only part of the equation in a huge passing play, however. Once the ball is in the air, it comes down to Williams to reel in the catch. Despite having defenders draped all over him on numerous occasions this season – think back to his ridiculous 62-yard touchdown against Kansas City – Williams has still managed to make a play more often than not.
When quizzed as to how on Earth he's able to shrug off tight coverage so consistently and out-maneuver a defender in mid-air, Williams just shrugs.
"I'd say it's something I've been blessed with, a knack for the ball and a knack for knowing where I'm at on the field," he said. "I've always had the mentality that if the ball's in the air, it's mine. I try to prove that every chance I get."
The Bucs are certainly hoping for even more of Williams' highlight-reel grabs as they enter the stretch run toward a playoff berth, and Williams says that a postseason appearance has been his No. 1 objective for the 2012 season ever since offseason workouts began.
"Really my goals were just to help this team win and get in the playoffs," he said. "My whole time as a pro, I've never seen the playoffs, so that's one thing I want to do is see the playoffs, and I want to see this team do more than make the playoffs.
"But we've got to get in the playoffs first."