COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The last time Mike Williams took the field, he managed just two catches for 27 yards during the Chargers' worst performance of the 2021 season, a Week 6 loss to the Ravens in which Los Angeles' previously high-flying offense scored just six points.
But don't think Williams has lost the plot in what is shaping up to be a career year.
"Every week is a new week," Williams said on Thursday. "It's a one-game season every week. We don't want that to happen again, so we focus on this week. We're trying to go 1-0 this week, and that's all we can control is coming out this week and having a good plan, making the plan work and coming out 1-0."
The task this Sunday, coming out of a Week 7 bye, will be to bounce back against the Patriots -- who, notably, handed the Bolts their worst loss in franchise history last season, a 45-0 defeat in Week 13. And it's a good bet Williams will have a big role to play.
The fifth-year pro has been integrated a lot more into the game plan under first-year Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and it shows. The 2017 first-round pick is tied for the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in the NFL with six scores in six games. He's also recorded 33 receptions, putting him on pace for 93 in 17 games, which would shatter his previous high of 49 in a season.
"We haven't even scratched the surface yet of where we can be at as an offense," Williams said.
What's the secret to his success?
"Practice," he said. "That's the main thing. Everything happens in practice; you make plays in practice, you gain the confidence in the coaches, and they'll trust you in the games. Then you do it in the games, and it builds a lot more confidence and trust in them. I feel like I've been making a lot of plays for this team, and the coaches trust me to go out there, whether it's fourth down or third-and-long. They trust me to go out there and make that play. I just have to continue to make the plays that are coming my way."
"He brings a lot of talent, size, strong hands," Lombardi said of Williams. "Good route-runner. Smart player. He's been making plays for us and getting open. He was the seventh pick in the draft for a reason. We're glad that we have him. I think it's just a good player doing the things that good players do, and a quarterback that knows how to find him and deliver him the ball."
Williams has been one of the league's most productive receivers when aligned wide this season, ranking in the top six in targets (50, tied for fourth), receiving yards (421, sixth) and touchdowns (five, tied for second) on such targets, according to Next Gen Stats. Taking it one step further, he has recorded four touchdowns when targeted outside of the numbers, tied for most in the NFL.
"I think that he deserves the credit," Lombardi said. "Justin [Herbert] deserves the credit, and his health deserves the credit. I'll take it, but I probably don't deserve it."
Williams has been a threat to defenses not just deep but all over the field this season, with Herbert recording a passer rating of 100.0 or higher when targeting Williams on every target depth.
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"I feel like that opens up the offense for everybody, not just being a guy that goes down the field all the time," Williams said. "Catch it under 5 yards, make the rest happen with my legs. I feel like I'm capable of doing that. That's what we're doing this year, and we have to keep building on that."
Lombardi added: "I know that there's a narrative out there about Mike and his new role. I think, in a lot of ways, he's the same player, he's just been healthy, for the most part."
Injuries have been an issue for Williams in the past. He suffered a season-ending neck injury on Clemson's opening offensive drive of the year in 2015. As a rookie in 2017, he played in just 10 games due to a herniated disk, and in 2020, he was dealing with (but played through) an AC joint sprain and a hamstring injury. Throughout the ups and downs, the driving force for Williams is his upbringing and his family.
"I feel like there was a lot of people before me who had the same opportunity but fell off," he said. "I feel like me getting this opportunity, I can be this role model for the kids to show you can make it out where we're from and chase your dreams.
"That's a big part of why I do it, for my community and for the people back home. That's part of my why."