Bears hoping Roy Williams can flip the switch
The Bears faced a third-and-10 in the early moments of Monday’s preseason game against the Giants. Roy Williams lined up out wide left in a four-receiver look. He ran a 13-yard pattern and planted in an opening in the Giants’ zone.
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler looked for him immediately, locking on right after the snap of the ball. Williams was the primary target on the play and he was wide open.
Cutler delivered a strike right on Williams’ numbers. Williams dropped it.
In a nutshell, that’s the reality of having Williams on your roster — he’s a talented receiver, a guy that can create separation and put himself in position to make catches. And he’s totally unreliable.
The Cowboys found that out the hard way, sending three 2009 draft picks, including a first-rounder, to Detroit for Williams. That trade never paid off for Dallas, as Williams made just 19 catches over the final 10 games in 2008, then failed to top 600 yards receiving in both 2009 and ’10.
So the Cowboys let Williams walk in free agency, where he was promptly picked up by a Chicago team in need of some weapons at wide receiver. Perhaps the final selling point in the marriage was that Williams had excelled under offensive coordinator Mike Martz when he was calling the plays in Detroit. During Martz’s time in the Motor City (2006-07), Williams made 146 catches for more than 2,100 yards.
But even while he was producing on some awful Lions teams, there were always questions about his effort, his consistency and his motivation.
He did nothing to dispel those worries in Dallas and, in fact, looked even farther removed from the days when he was thought of as perhaps the NFL’s next great receiver.
None of that stopped Chicago from jumping all over Williams, then bumping him to the top of the depth chart, over Johnny Knox, the team’s leading receiver by a substantial margin last season. Knox has done nothing but work his butt off since the demotion; Williams, meanwhile, still doesn’t consider himself in game shape.
Maybe being back with Martz in an offense he knows will help Williams uncover some of that oft-hidden talent he’s clearly blessed with. Still, other than that track record with Martz, Williams has done nothing since 2007 to indicate he’s on the verge of blowing up.
It’s kind of an odd conundrum Chicago finds itself in: The Bears badly need Williams to step up — last year’s third-leading “receiver” was running back Matt Forte with 547 yards — and yet, might be better off with Knox on the field.
Martz’s offense will utilize everyone Chicago has, be it in three- and four-receiver sets or by rotating guys in and out. So Williams, Knox, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett probably will see plenty of playing time together. And while Knox stepped up last year, the move to add Williams clearly indicates that Chicago is still searching for a true No. 1, go-to receiver for Cutler.
Counting on Williams to be that threat is a risky proposition. When he plays at 100 percent, with complete focus, he still has the potential to be an elite NFL receiver. As we saw in Monday’s preseason game, though, the lapses happen way too often.