Williams gives Ravens visible boost

Rookie wide-out's role might be expanded

Pro football

November 18, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Before he was one of Oregon's elite wide receivers, before he was the Ravens' fourth-round draft choice this past April, and before he adopted the nickname Spider-Man after having the comic-book superhero in front of a spider web tattooed on his right biceps, Demetrius Williams was the "Invisible Man."

"It was just because I'm a thin guy and a lot of times when people tried to tackle me, they missed me," said Williams, who stood 6 feet 1 and weighed 165 pounds during his freshman year. "But that didn't last too long."

Indeed, that moniker hasn't applied to Williams in a long while, as the 6-foot-2, 197-pound player has been demonstrating that there's hardly anything invisible about his game or his value to the Ravens.

In his rookie season, Williams has caught 11 passes for 171 yards, and he posted his best performance of the year by grabbing four passes for 75 yards in Sunday's 27-26 win against the Tennessee Titans.

Three of those four catches were for first downs and raised his season total of first-down conversions to nine, which ranks him fourth on the team behind starters Derrick Mason (28), Mark Clayton (24) and Todd Heap (22).

Williams joins Mason and Clayton as the only wide receivers to be activated for all nine Ravens games, and the 23-year-old from Pittsburg, Calif., has vaulted past veterans Devard Darling and Clarence Moore to become the No. 3 wide-out.

Williams has been so impressive that coach Brian Billick acknowledged that the coaching staff should expand Williams' role in the offense.

"We need to get the ball to him more," Billick said Wednesday. "He's got a toughness to him for a young player. A lot of his catches have come in key third downs. That's a good sign."

Williams, who compiled 2,660 yards and 20 touchdowns at Oregon, acknowledged being initially disappointed about being the 14th receiver taken in the draft when the Ravens selected him 111th overall.

Any woe-is-me feeling, however, quickly disappeared in training camp when Williams ran his routes and discovered Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle running with him stride-for-stride.

"Route efficiency is definitely one of the bigger things," Williams said, adding that he spends an hour or two at home studying the offensive playbook to improve his learning curve. "You run a route on some of these Pro Bowl guys like Samari and Chris, and it's helping me out because I'm going against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Route running is definitely something you've got to pick up on."

McAlister returned the favor, saying: "We have our battles during the one-on-one period when I try to go up to him and give him everything I've got, and at the end of the day, I get better and he gets better. He's gone out week after week proving that he's capable of playing at this level."

Sunday was a day of highlights for Williams. There was the hook pattern along the right sideline that froze Tennessee safety Lamont Thompson just long enough for quarterback Steve McNair to connect on an 11-yard strike, eventually leading to a field goal by Matt Stover just before halftime.

There was the maturity of Williams to recognize a gap near three Titans players and sit there as an outlet for McNair, who eventually found him for a 20-yard gain. That led to another field goal by Stover to open the fourth quarter.

Finally, there was a 34-yard go route with a little stutter step to fake out cornerback Reynaldo Hill, which contributed to McNair's game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Mason.

After that reception, CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback Steve Beuerlein remarked: "When the game is on the line, this guy knows how to get the job done, Demetrius Williams. This guy right here is going to be a name."

Williams took special pride in setting up a block on a Tennessee linebacker that sprung running back Jamal Lewis for a 4-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

"That actually gets me more excited than anything," Williams said. "Of course, there's making a catch, and that's what a receiver's supposed to do. But a lot of people don't look at the blocking aspect, and if I can spring a running back to a touchdown or something, that's one of the better feelings you can have."

Williams said he is not content with his rate of progress in several facets of the game, but Mason spoke highly of the rookie's development.

"I believe Demetrius at No. 3 is better than anybody's No. 3 defensive back, and he proves it week in and week out," Mason said. "He makes one or two big plays week in and week out."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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