When the Los Angeles Chargers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in their Wild Card Weekend game on Saturday, they will be without one of their top offensive playmakers. Wide receiver Mike Williams is out for the game with a back injury, the Chargers announced on Friday.
According to ESPN, Williams suffered a fracture in his back that is expected to sideline him for two to three weeks. Barring a run to the Super Bowl, it is unlikely that Williams plays again this season, per ESPN.
Williams suffered the injury during the team's meaningless Week 18 loss to the division rival Denver Broncos. Before the game began, the Chargers were locked into the AFC's No. 5 seed and their first-round matchup with the Jaguars. Despite that reality, the Chargers elected to play numerous starters deep into the game, including Williams, Keenan Allen, and Justin Herbert.
Williams had missed four games earlier in the season due to a high-ankle sprain. He initially tried to return from the injury after missing two games, but re-injured it after playing just six snaps in a game against the Chiefs. He missed one more game before returning to the field and catching 25 passes for 385 yards and a touchdown across the final five games of the season. He hauled in four passes for 32 yards on five targets prior to his injury in Week 18. The Chargers offense struggled at times with Williams out due to a lack of down-field options available for Herbert. Josh Palmer should be expected to take on a larger workload in Williams' absence, while DeAndre Carter could play more snaps as well.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley came under heavy criticism for playing his starters so deep into the game in the wake of Williams' injury, said this week that he "stands behind" the way the Chargers handled the Week 18 game.
"I stand behind what we did in that football game," Staley said, via the L.A. Times. "All my players are really important to me. There were a lot of players that were playing in that game that were in harm's way. That's just the nature of football. It's very difficult to decide who plays and who doesn't and who's more valuable than the rest. What you're trying to do is set a standard for your program about how you do things. That's what I believe in. I didn't want anybody to get hurt in that game, regardless of their status, because everybody's important."