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Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams adjusts to life with more double coverage

TAMPA — Mike Williams doesn't need the praise of his opponents to confirm he has built a reputation among NFL defensive coordinators.

That fact is obvious each time the Bucs' second-year receiver tries to escape the two defenders that often shadow him. In a weird way, that's a compliment for a receiver.

After putting together a record-setting debut season in 2010, with a franchise rookie-record 11 touchdowns, stopping Williams is high on an opponent's list of priorities. The result, on Sunday against the Vikings, was Williams finishing with one catch for minus-4 yards.

"When (defenses) go to Cover 2, the corner, instead of dropping down into his zone, he's following me," Williams said. "So, it's like (there's) a safety over the top and the corner's coming, too. Even the ball that I did catch, I got hit by the safety, too. It's always two defenders where I'm at. I just have to adjust to it. Hopefully we keep getting wins and whatever happens, happens."

The Bucs did win Sunday in spite of their featured receiver's lack of big numbers. That's because, even without the ball in his hands, Williams is having an appreciable impact.

For instance, because Williams drew two defenders, other targets were available to quarterback Josh Freeman. Slot receiver Preston Parker had six catches for 98 yards. Tight end Kellen Winslow and flanker Arrelious Benn become threats in single coverage, too.

"I've been saying for two years that we have a good receiving corps," said Williams, who had a 17-yard touchdown against the Vikings negated by a penalty. "If they double one guy, another guy is going to step up."

That said, the Bucs aren't the same team without Williams getting sufficient opportunities. He's too big a part of their offense, catching 65 passes for 964 yards in 2010.

So, offensive coordinator Greg Olson is looking at a number of things to keep defenses guessing, because the Bucs expect other teams to follow the Vikings' blueprint.

Among the options: putting Williams in presnap motion or lining him up in various spots at different times. Also, according to Olson, the plan is to keep Williams and Winslow on opposite sides of the field, thereby forcing the defense to make difficult choices. On Williams' called-back touchdown, for example, the Vikings had opted to double cover Winslow, Olson said.

The coverages, and the Bucs' approach, will vary from week to week.

"Some (teams) are going to challenge Mike (with single coverage), and it's going to be up to him to win," coach Raheem Morris said. "Some people are going to try to contain Mike, and then you have to try to move him around to different spots on the field. … It's about getting him open, getting him more space and more opportunities.

"Then, at the same time, you might sometimes want to put him in one spot, let other guys do what they have to do and let the system work."

Then there's always going to be the occasional jump ball that Williams and Freeman combined on so often last season. Williams is adamant he can come down with a majority of them, even against two defenders.

"I feel like I'm going to be 90 percent on opportunity balls," Williams said. "I tell Josh to go ahead and put it up. Throw right over his head, and I'll go up and get it."

And Williams is having an effect in the running game by throwing downfield blocks. One helped pave a path for LeGarrette Blount's momentum-shifting, third-quarter touchdown against Minnesota.

Asked about it, Williams' face lights up. The satisfaction almost makes up for the lack of catches … almost.

"It's only frustrating when you lose," he said. "When you get a win, it's like, 'Hey, whatever. I blocked great in the running game, so I'll put that in my stats.' That's my personal high this week, getting those corners and safeties out of there."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams adjusts to life with more double coverage 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:05pm]
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