COSTA MESA — Most coaches with rookie quarterbacks tend to simplify the playbook with a variety of screen throws, checkdowns and quick slants.
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams isn’t known for making those types of catches, but that didn’t stop him from telling Justin Herbert to trust him.
What Williams does best is what most coaches tell rookie quarterbacks like Herbert to avoid.
“Going up, making those crazy catches,” Williams said Wednesday to describe his playing style.
Those crazy catches often happen in double coverage with the game on the line.
Jump balls to Williams appear dangerous, but not to the Chargers’ coaching staff. They encouraged Herbert to listen to Williams.
Trust the 6-foot-4 wideout because he’s arguably the best jump-ball receiver in the NFL, and there might not be a debate after watching Williams’ acrobatic catches the past two seasons.
“It’s on tape,” Williams said for why Herbert trusted his reckless approach. “I’ve done it before. I’ve shown that I can do it, and if he’s seen it, multiple clips of me doing it, the coaches have seen multiple clips of me doing it, and they trust me. I guess that’s where he gained the trust from, just watching previous film.”
Herbert likely didn’t need to watch the tape on Williams. He quickly learned in practices that throwing the ball in Williams’ direction increases his odds of completing a downfield pass.
“Just gotta put it up there,” Herbert said about throwing jump balls to Williams. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just have to give him a chance, and I know when he goes up, it’s not going to be a 50-50 ball. It’s going to be more like an 80-20.”
Herbert has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since taking over as the starter in Week 2, but it wasn’t until his fourth start versus the New Orleans Saints where he truly connected with Williams.
Herbert completed five throws to Williams for 109 yards, two touchdowns and one clutch 29-yard jump ball over two defenders with Williams landing on his back during the final drive of the fourth quarter.
Herbert joined Philip Rivers and Deshaun Watson as quarterbacks featured on Williams’ highlight tape of insane catches. Watson was Williams’ college quarterback at Clemson and Rivers enjoyed throwing to Williams during their three seasons together with the Chargers.
The Chargers are hoping for many more completions between Herbert and Williams for years to come. But Williams knows he’ll need to do a better job of landing after his acrobatic catches to avoid injuries.
“I do need to work on my landing a little bit,” Williams said. “I don’t really think about it too much. I feel making the plays is most important. I can land correct and not catch the ball, but now we asking why I didn’t catch the ball. So I just try to secure the catch first and whatever happens after that is what it is.”
Williams’ chemistry with Herbert started late because he injured his hamstring in the second half of Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers and was sidelined the following game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was supposed to be on a snap count versus the Saints, but star wideout Keenan Allen missed most of the game with back spasms. Williams stepped up as Herbert’s go-to target with Allen sidelined.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Allen isn’t fully recovered from his back injury following the bye week. Allen was a limited participant at practice Wednesday.
Allen has been Herbert’s security blanket during his first four career games because Allen is able to get open quickly.
Williams needs time to get up field, but once he does, he provides plenty of security for Herbert, and a lot more yards.
“I’m not sure how many people that big can move as well as he can,” Herbert said.
INGRAM, JONES PRACTICE
The Chargers designated defensive end Melvin Ingram and defensive tackle Justin Jones to return from injured reserve. They started their 21-day window to return to the active roster on Monday.
On Wednesday, Ingram and Jones returned to practice for the first time since being placed on injured reserve before Week 3 against the Panthers. They were forced to miss at least three games for being on the list.
Lynn said there’s a chance they return to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they would be on a snap count if made available. Ingram is dealing with a knee injury and Jones has a shoulder injury.
The Chargers aren’t required to put them on the injury report until they’re added to the active roster.
Right guard Trai Turner (groin) was the only starter not on injured reserve who didn’t practice Wednesday. Turner has been sidelined since Week 2.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) returned to practice as a limited participant. He’s missed the past two games.
Running back Justin Jackson (knee) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (elbow) were also limited participants.
Defensive end Joey Bosa wasn’t listed on the injury report. He dealt with injuries to his triceps, ankle and knee before last week’s bye week.
EKELER, TRANQUILL UPDATE
Most injured Chargers are close to returning following the bye week, but running back Austin Ekeler isn’t one of them.
Ekeler is on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury he sustained in Week 4 against Tampa Bay.
“It would be later than sooner with Austin,” Lynn said. “He had a very serious injury with his hamstring and we want to make sure he’s right before he comes back.”
Lynn didn’t rule out a return by linebacker Drue Tranquill late this season. Tranquill had surgery after injuring his leg in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“If Drue came back though, it would be late,” Lynn said.