Day 6 of Chargers training camp certainly got LA Chargers Twitter talking when a route running clip of receiver Mike Williams went viral:
It's only one route in a drill, but let's be clear: Williams has never been a good route runner. He ranked 62nd last season in yards per route run and 90th in target separation in 2020. At the same time, one can argue that Williams' game has never necessitated being the route running expert that players like Keenan Allen or Davante Adams are.
To be clear, those players are in a class of their own when it comes to their separation and route running prowess. I don't expect Williams to ever be at that level, considering that isn't really his game.
However, if Williams considers himself a wideout that'll be worth $15-20+M in the offseason, he does have to be better in that regard. Being the X-Receiver necessitates a cleaner game and the coaching staff envisions him in that role. They made the comparison to Thomas specifically.
Mike Williams is entering a contract year for the LA Chargers
Williams' fifth-year option is something a lot of fans were talking about back in March when it was officially picked up by the Chargers. Personally, I defended the move at the time. The $15 million option never prevented the Chargers from making the extensions and signings they did.
That being said, this is still a contract year for Williams. He's going to be a free agent aiming for a long term contract that amounts to $15-20 million in all likelihood. As of now, Williams' 2019 season is his only one with over 800 yards (1001, to be exact).
We saw the Chargers move on from Hunter Henry in 2020 after a good, but not great season. The Chargers are not afraid to go grab a Jared Cook and replace a player who they feel isn't above replacement. Don't think for a second that GM Tom Telesco drafted Josh Palmer in the 3rd round without some thought towards the future.
Route running is a skill that could allow Williams to prove that he's above replaceability. There's a lot of jump-ball receivers that can be signed on the cheap in free agency or drafted, but there are not as many guys that can create separation. Williams does already do so many things well with his frame that if he just added more separation skills, he could have a Mike Evans-like impact on the game.