By Jerrell Richardson
The name Kyle Williams does not have a positive connotation in San Francisco. The mention of his name will take 49er fans back to that disastrous Divisional playoff game, where Williams almost single handily gave away a trip to the Super Bowl with his two muffed returns. To his credit, Williams vowed to not let one bad game be the final chapter of his career, and was put in the perfect position for redemption when LaMichael James suffered an injury in the preseason. James is not only the team’s change of pace in the running game, but was the team’s punt and kickoff returner, and with him out, Williams was asked to fill in. Williams accepted his former duties with open arms, but has been completely ineffective, and with roster changes imminent, it’s time for the team to part way with Kyle Williams.
San Francisco started this season without its top two receivers (Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham) and its return man (LaMichael James) unavailable, so at the time Williams was invaluable. He killed two birds with one stone, and figured to have the talent to make an impact in both areas. However, he was done neither. He has averaged 19.1 yards per kick return, which is better than only two other returners with at least 5 attempts, and his 5.1 yard average on punt returns is only better than three players with at least 10 tries. While he has not coughed up the ball yet, he has put the ball on the turf twice, and simply put has given this team nothing positive on special teams.
From a receiving standpoint, Williams has not done much better. His hottest stretch was the first three games when he pulled in nine catches for 87 yards. Since then he has been absent from the offense, with two catches for 21 yards in the past five contests. Williams stepped in for this team when injuries left them thin at two key areas, and while he was able to hold down the fort, the 49ers are getting healthier, and no longer need his services.
More Talented Options
Wide Receiver Mario Manningham is already practicing and needs to replace someone on the active roster, so it only makes sense for him to replace Kyle Williams. Manningham is coming off an injury, and while he will take some time to get up to game time speed, he can certainly match the production of Williams thus far. Manningham is no superstar, but he is a complete step up from Williams, giving the team another viable option, and diminishes any real need for Williams as a receiver. There is also the eventual return of Michael Crabtree that will further diminish the need for Williams.
So what about the return game? LaMichael James is no longer injured, and is getting zero playing time on offense. James has been inactive the past two weeks due to limited roster spots and a full backfield, watching from the sidelines as Williams has struggled. Last year James averaged 29.8 yards per kick return and undoubtedly would add some big play ability to the return game. As James is a player the team has at least reported that they are not willing to trade, its time the 49ers release their lightening in the bottle and add an explosive return game to an already talented team.
Kyle Williams Has To Go
There is no real area that Kyle Williams can point to and say that he has helped out this team. If the 49ers decide to hold on to him, it has to be more of a precaution, as the multi-talented player can fill several different roles. But he is just not the best option for the passing game with Mario Manningham back, and has shown that he lacks the ability to make a (positive play) returning punts and kicks, while the shifty and speedy James has shown to excel in this area. While the team could hold onto Kyle Williams, with rosters cuts looming, and two active players who can do both his receiving and returning job better than he has what would be the point?
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.