Packers Annual Checkup: TE D.J. Williams

Today is the 49th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Monday, March 18: CB Tramon Williams
Tuesday, March 19: DL C.J. Wilson
Wednesday, March 20: DL Jerel Worthy
Thursday, March 21: OLB Frank Zombo


Season stats: 14 games (13 regular season, one postseason); 262 snaps; 14 targets, seven catches, three dropped passes, 57 yards, zero touchdowns; zero sacks allowed, zero QB hurries allowed in 26 pass-blocking snaps; zero penalties committed

Best game: Week 16 win over Tennessee (three catches, 20 yards, 12 yards after catch, zero dropped passes; season-best 2.2 PFF rating)

Worst game: Week 8 win over Jacksonville (two targets, zero catches, one dropped pass; minus-0.4 PFF rating) season rating: 4.3 (No. 6 out of 24 on Packers offense; best among Packers tight ends)

Expectations at the start of the season: Low

Expectations were … Met

Looking live: Williams, a fifth-round pick by the Packers in 2011, entered training camp last season with a chance to really establish a role for himself in Green Bay’s offense. Top backup Andrew Quarless was sidelined with a serious knee injury that he suffered the previous season, so Williams took a step up the depth chart by default. Williams was making impressive catches nearly every day in practice and seemed poised for a breakout year. It came to the point that, when Williams finally dropped a pass during a drill in training camp, it was notable. That’s how dependable he had been. But, when the regular season began, Williams wasn’t on the field very often, only playing 21 percent of the snaps. The most surprising aspect of Williams’ season was that he was a healthy inactive in four games. That meant that coach Mike McCarthy and his staff, for various reasons, didn’t think Williams could help the team win as much as 46 other players on the roster could. Williams was a healthy scratch for the Packers’ playoff loss to San Francisco, ending his season on a disappointing note.

Upon further review: Williams was primarily used as a run-blocker, playing 56 percent of his snaps on running plays. That’s where he was most effective, too. graded Williams with a positive 3.9 rating as a run-blocker, which was by far the best of Green Bay’s tight ends. For a player who won the John Mackey Award in college as the nation’s most outstanding tight end and caught 54 passes for 627 yards as a senior at Arkansas, Williams should eventually emerge as a solid receiving option for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In 89 pass routes last season, Williams was targeted 14 times with seven receptions and three drops. The sure-handed ability he displayed in training camp was not there in the regular season. That lack of production could have been as a result of having so few opportunities, but young players like Williams need to capitalize on every chance they get, especially in regular-season games. At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Williams is undersized for the tight end position, so he’ll likely never get the level of respect as a down-the-middle receiving threat like Jermichael Finley does. That certainly doesn’t mean he can’t be a very productive player, though.

Overall 2012 grade: C

Status for 2013: 99 percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster next season. Williams has the talent and determination to suggest he can be a very good NFL player. The question is, how long until that potential is realized? Williams will need more snaps next season in order to find out. Quarless returning after an entire missed season won’t help make that happen, so Williams will have to really step up his game in training camp and preseason to get the attention of the coaching staff. Williams’ days of being inactive despite being healthy need to be over.

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