Many fans and experts placed the entire blame for the defeat to the New York Giants on Williams’ two muffed punts, the second coming in overtime. The Niners lost by just a field goal.
This indignation was completely shortsighted because the game was lost not on a fumble, but on the fact that the 49ers were an awful 1-for-13 on third downs and the wide receiver corps caught a total of one ball for three yards.
Williams filled in for the injured primary return-man Ted Ginn on an emergency basis as well.
Can KW rebound and have a big impact for his fellow 49ers in 2012?
Talent-wise, Williams is a speedy wideout with solid hands and route-running abilities. He’s still improving at gaining separation from opposing defensive backs, but is more than a capable receiver out of the slot.
He even has the vision, quickness and instincts to perform well as a returner. In the NFC Championship game, his punt return of 24 yards to the 49ers 40-yardline set up the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. His kickoff return of 40 yards to the SF 45 was especially impactful as it set up the game-tying FG in the fourth (also occurred after his muffed punt).
Injuries limited the former Sun Devil in 2011. He posted a 12.1-yard average on 20 catches for 241 yards and three scores in limited action.
For 2012, Williams can serve as the veteran receiver (of sorts) at the lower end of the depth chart because of his knowledge of the playbook. Jim Harbaugh loves players that can wear multiple hats on the football field as well. KW can do just that—his versatility makes him a viable threat as a pass-catcher, on reverses, as a return man and definitely as a strong blocking wideout in Harbaugh’s run-first system.
Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will assume the first three spots on the depth chart. Williams, for his part, will at the very least occupy the No. 4 position until rookie A.J. Jenkins can become fluent within the offense.
His significant impact will derive from his veteran presence, blocking abilities, unabated desire to be better and value as a two-way player and underneath pass-catcher for Alex Smith.
Plus, the guy is still only 24 years of age (officially on July 19).
It would not be at all unreasonable to expect a twofold increase in his production in 2012. If he plays a full season, upwards of 40 catches, 500 yards and five touchdowns is entirely attainable.
I implored the 49ers to retain him after the playoffs last year and continue to do so today.
Detractors need to forget the past and recognize Kyle Williams’ underrated value in both the present and future.