Ankles are not supposed to bend that way.
Los Angeles Chargers star wide receiver Mike Williams was injured with 7:04 left in the Chargers loss to Seattle Sunday and the official designation is the dreaded “high ankle sprain.” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said the injury would cause Williams to miss “weeks, not days” in his press conference Monday.
Williams is just the latest Chargers casualty. The Chargers had been without wide receiver Keenan Allen with a hamstring pull, until Sunday. Allen played half the game against Seattle, but was conspicuously absent in the second half. Staley said Allen was on a “pitch count.” Yeah, right. The Chargers were down and could have used Allen. That’s not a good sign.
Williams went up for a Justin Herbert pass on fourth-and-13 with the Seahawks leading 30-16. He cradled the ball and his right leg came down first. Williams tried to spin away from Seahawks defensive back Michael Jackson, but Jackson used the momentum to throw Williams down. Jackson’s torso landed on Williams’ ankle and there was that whole moment where like Williams’ foot was going in one direction and his body was going the other.
Williams was helped to the sidelines. The catch wouldn’t have counted anyway, because of a Chargers penalty. Nice.
Next play, Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III ran 74 yards for a score. So it was literally injury, then insult.
What do the Chargers lose in Williams? How long will he be out? And where do they go to replace his production?
No Ordinary Mike
Williams was the seventh overall pick for the Chargers in 2017. His rookie year started off poorly with a hernia before camp started (any time you see a football player with a hernia, it’s because they lift too many weights). He only played in 10 games and had 11 catches.
In his second year, Williams, listed at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, became Philip Rivers threat in the end zone with a team-high 10 touchdowns and 43 catches. He went over 1,000 yards in 2019 and last year set career highs with 76 catches for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns.
At the time of the ankle injury (ugh, it looked bad) he was on pace for new career highs in catches and yards.
Williams is a rare combination of speed and size. The Chargers can — and do — use him to go deep, and his size makes him a tough match-up for defensive backs, because he can outjump them and he physical enough so that they can’t get through him.
Williams and Allen are one of the top combos in the NFL….when healthy.
How Long Will He Miss?
When it comes to injuries in the NFL, any time a coach talks about them, he’s lying. Williams most likely does have a high ankle sprain, but when I watched the replay, his knee gets pretty twisted around too. This is how injury reports work in the NFL. You tell everyone you hurt your ankle, but shhhh, I also have a bum elbow too or something.
The good news is Williams is not really injury-prone. He’s missed a few games here and there with a bad back, but nothing this significant.
High ankle sprains take at least a few weeks, unless it’s worse than the Chargers are letting on (very possible). Monday night we just saw Patriots quarterback Mac Jones come back from a high ankle sprain after four weeks. But he’s a quarterback (and soon to be a back-up, apparently). Wide receivers need to cut and move.
The Chargers have a bye this week. That helps, but I doubt Williams is back before the Week 11 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers could get Joey Bosa back by then too. That will be in time for the final six games of the season.
How Do The Chargers Replace The Production?
Herbert, remember, who also got hurt this season, doesn’t lack for targets. Running back Austin Ekeler leads the team with 53 catches, a lot of underneath stuff, but he makes plays when he has the ball.
Joshua Palmer is worth a flier if you’re playing fantasy. But he only has 240 yards on 40 catches. The guy I am interested in seeing more of is special teams jet DeAndre Carter. He has better speed than Williams, but isn’t nearly as big.
Michael Bandy has come off the practice squad in the last few games and has four catches, but he’s no Mike Williams. He’s a possession-type player.
What the Chargers have to hope is that Keenan Allen really is OK after the bye week and ready for the Week 9 game against Atlanta. Allen is the Chargers best wide receiver, by a hair over Williams. Allen can make up for Williams’ absence. The Chargers would love to have both Allen and Williams on the field together, but it will be some time before that happens.