'Weird and exciting': Raiders' Tyrell Williams ready to face former team

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- On one hand, Oakland Raiders first-year receiver Tyrell Williams has played for the only two quarterbacks in the NFL who don't curse -- Philip Rivers and Derek Carr.

On the other, you better [freakin'] believe Williams is jacked to suit up for Carr and face his old team, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Rivers come Thursday night at the Oakland Coliseum.

"Weird and exciting" is how the generally placid Williams described his emotions.

"I've been kind of even more excited all week, I guess, to be able to have this game," he said. "I do stay even-keeled, but I think I'll have a lot more juice this week."

Why not?

Williams' role with the Raiders has grown mightily since signing a four-year, $44 million contract with a max value of $47 million and $22 million guaranteed on March 13 to play Robin to Antonio Brown's Batman.

But with Brown more Joker than Dark Knight and having his wish of being cut after weeks of training camp histrionics granted, Williams became the Raiders' WR1, a task he fulfilled admirably for the Chargers in 2016 when Keenan Allen was injured.

Williams caught 69 passes for 1,059 yards and seven TDs that season. As the Raiders hit the midpoint of this season, Williams is on pace for 46 catches for 710 yards and a career-best 10 TDs. Granted, he missed two games with plantar fasciitis -- the London game against the Chicago Bears and at the Green Bay Packers. He has caught six passes for 139 yards in two games since returning.

Yes, he is still Carr's primary deep threat, averaging a team-high 15.4 yards per catch, just as he was when Brown was penciled into the Raiders' depth chart.

"He had to be excited [about elevating to No. 1 receiver] and he's made the most of it," Carr said. "We could all say it's money well spent. The man is a really good player. He works his tail off, very selfless, doesn't care if he catches a touchdown or if Hunter Renfrow catches the game-winner.

"I can't say enough good things about Tyrell. I'm glad we have him."

That Williams' feet are feeling better is a bonus.

We're talking about a guy who began his Raiders' tenure with a TD catch in each of his first five games, heading an ever-evolving WR corps that is now comprised of Williams, Renfrow, Trevor Davis, Zay Jones, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss and return specialist Dwayne Harris.

"It's been not exactly how I've wanted, fighting through everything with my feet," Williams said of his first season in Oakland. "It's been a big thing with that. But I'm starting to feel a lot better the last week, so I feel like I'm just now starting to be able to take off and really feel good and play how I know I can play."

Which is to take the tops off defenses.

As Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said, the Raiders "stole" one of his best, most versatile weapons in the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Williams.

"His work ethic, his football IQ," Lynn said when asked what would help Williams transition into a No. 1 wideout. "You know he can line up all the way across the ball at receiver. You know he can read coverages. He can get open. He developed into a good route runner. He developed into catching the high point of the ball down the field. You know you see him doing that more. And his size, he's a physical presence. He's a tall receiver with speed."

One who had this game circled since the schedule came out in April.

"I feel really good," he said. "Like I said, it's just more of just getting healthy, just being able to feel more like myself because I know I can make every play. So just getting back to feeling 100 percent, I'm getting there now. That confidence is right where I want it. I'm excited to finish out the season."