COSTA MESA — Mike Williams has dreamed for weeks about his first NFL touchdown. On Sunday, he was a few steps away from finally realizing that vision.
With less than three minutes left in the Chargers’ 30-13 win over Washington, the first-round rookie receiver split two defenders on third-and-2, within two or three strides of the end zone. But backup quarterback Kellen Clemens — playing in relief of Philip Rivers — threw too high. Williams tipped it to cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who took it back 96 yards untouched for a pick-six.
Bashaud Breeland gets a pick six as Kellen Clemons is hurried to make a throw. pic.twitter.com/XMVAktZu8r
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 10, 2017
It was just one of three targets Williams got in Week 14, despite being on the field for 35 of 72 offensive snaps — third-most among Chargers receivers. All three were thrown by Clemens, whom Williams doesn’t practice with as often as he does Rivers.
Of course, Williams hadn’t practiced at all for a good chunk of the season. After a lower-back injury robbed him of the offseason and his first five games, the No. 7 overall pick eased into a full workload — finally topping 30 snaps for the first time in a Week 11 win over the Bills.
But a bone bruise on his right knee sidelined him again for most of the next two games. He returned against Washington in a knee brace, but wasn’t targeted until Rivers headed to the bench with the game already in hand.
“He didn’t do a whole lot,” Coach Anthony Lynn said of Williams, “but when he was in the game, I thought he did his job. We didn’t get the ball his way as much as we had in the past, but I think that’s coming.
Added offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt: “When you miss that week and have that setback, the biggest hurdle is getting back into the action because of how much faster this game is.”
In an ideal world, Williams would be settling into his role as a No. 2 option behind Keenan Allen, who heads into Saturday’s trip to Kansas City ranked fifth in the league with a career-high 1,143 receiving yards. Instead, the Chargers (7-6) have seven other players with more targets and receiving yards, including undrafted rookie running back Austin Ekeler.
But even with just three games left in the regular season, what Williams does with the rest of the way could help springboard him into a strong sophomore campaign.
“You’d like for him to just keep growing,” Lynn said. “Every time he takes the…