Demetrius Williams Remaking Himself


Ravens wideout Demetrius Williams jumped high amid two defenders in the end zone to snatch a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco out of the air while getting hit from behind.

The play essentially put last weekend's matchup with the Chicago Bears out of reach, giving the Ravens a 21-7 lead in the third quarter en route to a 31-7 Baltimore victory.

Williams' battle for the ball was a reminder of the fight he's faced nearly his entire career.

Filling in for an injured Mark Clayton (knee) and Kelley Washington (ankle), Williams showed that the Ravens are building confidence in the oft-injured receiver.

He ended the 2006 campaign with a team-leading 18.0-yard average per catch, but since then, injuries have derailed what could have been a promising career.

In 2007, Williams was sidelined after nine games because of a high ankle sprain. He landed on Injured Reserve again the following year after hurting the same ankle. Williams had surgery on his Achilles' tendon in November of last season, and has been working hard to come back even stronger.

"It was a battle in the beginning, but getting the chance to come back, and my legs are healthy now, and I'm able to go out and run routes at full speed and to not feel pain – any pain – is a good feeling," Williams said. "It's good to be back in the mix."

This offseason, many expected Williams to seize the Ravens' third receiver position, one of the reasons general manager Ozzie Newsome decided not to pursue a big-name wideout.

Instead, Washington beat out Williams and became a key third-down weapon for Baltimore.

"Really, his lack of playing time was a tribute to how well Mark Clayton was playing at times and Kelley Washington," said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "Now they're both down, and he stepped up. He's really bought into what we're doing. He's been playing at a pretty high level at practice. Unfortunately, the other guys were playing well, too. We kept telling him to stay ready, and he stayed ready. I think a lot of credit goes to Demetrius."

After two solid performances, Williams could have another opportunity to show his wares, if Clayton and Washington are out or even limited this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The most notable change Williams has shown is physical. Coming into the league, he was a spindly 6-foot-2, 197 pounds. His nickname of "Spiderman" could have applied to his wiry frame just as much as his ability to stick to the ball.

In the offseason, though, Williams estimates that he added about 10-15 pounds of muscle, and it shows in a bulkier upper body.

Williams' touchdown last week was his first since scoring on a 70-yard catch-and-run against the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 26, 2008. And it wasn't easy. Williams had to use his body to position himself through the closing defensive backs and wrestle the ball out of the air.

"It's just about attacking the ball," explained Williams. "I guess these last few weeks I've been focusing more on trying to just attack the ball.

"You know, every time the ball goes up into the air, the quarterbacks are expecting us to come down with it, or nobody come down with it. So, at that point, it's just about protecting the ball and trying to make a play."

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh believes physicality is a big factor in Williams' resurgence.

"He's re-made himself, a little bit, as a player," Harbaugh noted. "He's become bigger and stronger, and from way back when – whenever that was – when we first got here, he had a long way to go, physically. He's gotten in the weight room. He's stacked some muscle mass on himself, and he's a bigger, stronger kind of guy.

"He'll tell you there were times he lined up incorrectly in this game, and those are things he's got to continue to work on – be more precise, understanding every part of the offense – and yet, he goes up and makes plays. That's the thing that you look for. The biggest thing I would say is he's stronger to the ball now than he's ever been, since we got here. That's what a big, tall receiver needs to be for you."

Williams realizes that he still needs to improve. After all, injuries to two players slated ahead of him were the main reasons he was on the field.

If he just stays aggressive and continues to gain Flacco's trust, Williams may make it tough to take him off it.

"I think I've been working on [being aggressive] this year," he stated. "It's just one of those things where there's always something you can improve on as a receiver, so it's one of the bigger things I've been trying to improve on."

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