November 30, 2011 in Sports

Williams-Rice combination has come up short

Tim Booth Associated Press
 

RENTON, Wash. – Mike Williams has heard the talk that his drop-off this season is related to the big contract extension he was given at the end of his breakout season a year ago and that he doesn’t have the same hunger anymore.

“I don’t think there is any truth to that,” Williams said.

When the Seahawks signed Sidney Rice in the offseason to join Williams as a linchpin in the receiving corps, the belief was that Seattle had found what was missing in its passing game.

Now, 11 games into their first season together, Rice and Williams have a combined 46 catches, three touchdowns and have failed to provide the impact Seattle wanted.

Both have been dogged by injuries, the latest being a concussion to Rice – his second in less than a month – that will keep him out of Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia. Rice came up woozy after making a diving attempt for a pass across the middle in Sunday’s 23-17 loss to Washington, a game in which both Rice and Williams were held without a reception.

Rice still has 32 catches on the season, although Thursday will be the third game he’s missed. Williams has just 14 receptions, one touchdown and some harsh criticism for himself after Sunday’s loss, when he had a key drop in the first half and was replaced later in the game by backup Ben Obomanu.

On Tuesday, Williams said he wanted to be accountable for his struggles.

“When you’re hard on yourself the guys around you know you hold yourself accountable to how you’re supposed to perform, how you’re supposed to play,” Williams said.

Last season, Williams was nearly the NFL’s comeback player of the year. Given one more chance after being a first-round bust, Williams flourished when reunited in Seattle with Pete Carroll, his former coach at USC. Williams became the focal point of Seattle’s passing game and, with a veteran quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, had the best season of his career. Williams played in 14 games and caught 65 passes for 751 yards. He was rewarded at the end of the year with a three-year contract.

But now Hasselbeck is playing for Tennessee and Seattle’s passing game is called by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and run by quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. There’s also been the emergence of undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin – who is Seattle’s leading receiver with 37 receptions – and more focus on Obomanu and Golden Tate.

Throw in an increased focus on the running game in the past month and it’s all added up to fewer opportunities for Williams.

A bigger concern for Seattle than Williams’ lack of production might be Rice’s health. He already missed the first two games of the season with a labrum injury in his shoulder and because the concussions were so close together, he may be out for a longer time.

Rice suffered a concussion against Baltimore, but was cleared to return the following week at St. Louis.

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