ALAMEDA -- The Raiders spent most of their offseason and training camp preparing to use Antonio Brown as an offensive focal point. Tyrell Williams was an integral part of the attack but set into a more specific role, operating primarily from the X receiver position with some variation built in.
Every receiver in a Jon Gruden offense is required to know every position, but Williams was honed a bit even when Brown was out dealing with frostbitten feet or throwing temper tantrums over helmet safety.
Brown’s ill-timed exit, J.J. Nelson’s ankle injury and Ryan Grant’s inability to produce in Brown’s old spot put the receiver position into some flux and has fundamentally changed what the Raiders are asking Williams to do.
“It’s different,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He has got to run some different cuts, he’s got to run some different routes. He’s got to do a lot more for us than originally that was planned.”
The Raiders will move him around the formation in search of favorable matchups and expand the route tree to free up the team’s best receiving talent by far.
Doing so in-season, while game-planning for opponents certainly adds a new wrinkle that doesn’t bother Williams at all.
“I feel like I was playing everywhere through training camp,” Williams said. “I was running all types of routes. I was trying to figure out every position so it was easier if things came up. The transition has been smooth for me.”
Williams definitely has seen increased coverage since Brown left, certainly more than he saw as the L.A. Chargers’ No. 2 option.
“We had Keenan [Allen] out there, so a lot of attention went to him,” Williams said. “We had a really explosive offense. Here, we have a bunch of new guys trying to come into their own. I’m the guy in the position group who has been in the league the longest, and the guys have seen me play. I feel like I’m seeing attention, but that I’m still getting open.”
That has been clear through his totals. He has 14 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns on 17 targets in three games, though he wasn’t used much in a Week 3 loss to Minnesota. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes did a solid job with Williams, though he often had help in the Vikings' coverage scheme.
Moving Williams around should help, as will Darren Waller’s emergence as a bona fide offensive weapon. Even Nelson and slot man Hunter Renfrow and new guy Trevor Davis must get into the act to round out a receiver corps that isn’t doing well enough to this point.
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Coaches are working to scheme Williams open and have him be a true centerpiece of the offense. That has to take hold quickly as the Raiders try to snap a two-game skid Sunday in Indianapolis against the Colts.
“With changes that we’ve made in personnel here in the first three weeks, now he’s taken on that role again of a move guy that we’ll play him at the X, Y, Z and sometimes the F,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said “Again, we’re constantly trying to find a way to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and we consider him one of our playmakers. We’ll continue to do that.”