At the moment, Bears’ Roy Williams in no shape to succeed
By MARK POTASH email@example.com August 23, 2011 9:54PM
Roy Williams | Getty Images
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:30AM
Roy Williams needs to shape up.
Physically, the former Pro Bowler is everything Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz looks for in a wide receiver. It’s a big reason why Williams jumped Johnny Knox as the starting split end a week into training camp — that and the 82 receptions, 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns Williams had with Martz as his offensive coordinator in Detroit in 2006.
‘‘Good receivers come in all shapes and sizes,’’ Martz said. ‘‘It’s that suddenness, being able to get in and out of cuts and the aggressiveness that we’re looking for. But the primary thing is the ability to beat a corner one-on-one consistently.
‘‘And if it’s a real big guy, and they can do that, that’s the best-case scenario. You get a guy who’s 6-4 and 215 pounds, and he can beat a corner one-on-one — that’s great.’’
Williams is 6-3 and 215 pounds. He can get in and out of cuts suddenly, can beat a jam at the line of scrimmage and turn small plays into big ones and can beat a cornerback one-on-one.
But only if he’s in peak condition. And right now, even Williams acknowledges he’s not in game shape. Not for the regular season. And certainly not for Martz’s offense.
No matter the size or the shape of the receiver, the secret to success in Martz’s system is conditioning. Martz demands that his receivers go full-speed in every aspect of the game — whether they’re in the play or not, even when they come back to the huddle.
‘‘They have to be relentless in their conditioning,’’ Martz said. ‘‘We need out-and-out speed on every snap — running game, passing game, it doesn’t make a difference. It takes awhile to get into it. At the speed with which we move and shift, they get tired before the ball is even snapped if they’re not in shape.’’
It makes a difference. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt were gifted receivers who were in incredible shape when they played for Martz. When Martz became the offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2006, Williams changed his eating habits and made a concerted effort to get in better shape. He not only could keep pace with the offense, but he found he was more fluid in his motion and his cuts were sharper, which helps beat cornerbacks one-on-one.
But therein lies the problem facing Williams and Martz. With less than three weeks to go until the opener against the Atlanta Falcons, Williams isn’t in football shape. He didn’t expect to be. He’s a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s, apparently, when NFL teams had two-month training camps and played six preseason games.
‘‘I’m a firm believer [that] no matter what you do in the offseason, nothing will get you football-ready except for playing football,’’ Williams said. ‘‘You can run all the hills and mountains you want, but when you get here and play for four seconds and jog back to the huddle, that’s what gets you in shape.’’
Well, my advice to Roy is to do the play-for-four-seconds-and-jog-back-to-the-huddle thing all day and all night between now and Sept. 11. Maybe even sprint back to the huddle every now and then — because regardless of how much patience Martz and coach Lovie Smith might have, time runs short in a hurry from this point.
Williams does not have a reception in two preseason games, including a bad drop against the New York Giants on Monday night.
For the record, Williams only had three receptions in the preseason in 2006 with the Lions. But all three came in the first two games — for 19, nine and 45 yards. He spent the third game playing for four seconds and jogging back to the huddle,
took the last preseason game off, then caught 82 balls for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season.
Williams seems confident that it’s just a matter of conditioning and is unfazed by the looming opener.
‘‘I’ll be ready by then,’’ he said with a smile last week.
We’ll see about that. Even with the best résumé among Bears receivers, Williams’ NFL career is marked by red flags.
After he averaged 14.8 yards per catch and 64 yards a game in his first 60 NFL games, the Lions traded him to the Dallas Cowboys five games into the 2008 season. (‘‘I’m not going to talk about that,’’ said Rod Marinelli, the Lions’ head coach at the time, when asked how Williams fell out of favor in Detroit.)
Williams needs to get in shape. Let’s hope that’s all he needs to do to be a factor for the Bears in 2011. Keep your fingers crossed.