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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers: Is Mike Williams Poised for a Breakout Game?

Editor's Note: The following article was written by Craig T, and just posted by Leecaz

Mike Williams has pretty much garnered excitement at every phase of his tenure with the Buccaneers. A seeming steal in the 4th round. Impressive OTAs, camp. Established himself as the clear #1 in training camp. Splashy plays in preseason against live competition. 9 targets against the Browns, including the first goalline target, in which he turned a Freeman mistake into an acrobatic TD. QBs like guys that can pick them up, and he's already done that.

Clearly the expectations are rising at a ridiculous rate as Williams continues to excel at the inception of his career. However, although cliche to say and regularly-repeated, he is just a rookie and its unfair to expect a huge, or even a relatively-productive, game from him every single time out.

So what are his prospects for success this weekend against the Carolina Panther defense?

The Panthers opened their season with a 31-18 loss to the New York (football) Giants in the first regular season game at the new meadowlands stadium. Although the Panthers managed to limit the effectiveness of the New York running game, holding both Bradshaw and Jacobs to roughly 3.5 ypc, the Giants found considerable success through the air.  Eli Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks 4 times for 75 yards, but 3 of those catches were for TDs...with 2 of them for 19 and 26 yards. The non-TD catch was on a sideline route for 25 yds. Mario Manningham also grabbed four passes for 85 yards with a long of 31. 

The passing stats were a derivative of the relative success Carolina had in slowing the New York running game. Bradshaw totaled 20 carries for 76 yds and Jacobs 12 for 44. Less than 4 yards per carry on 32 rushes. Not bad.

As such, given what I saw on Sunday from the Buccaneer offensive line and running game, there's a decent possibility in my mind that the Bucs will face tough sledding on the ground Sunday. We know Olsen is not shy about mixing in deep routes to stretch out an overly-aggressive defense, and given what the Giants did Sunday, he'll likely look to test Carolina deep more than a few times Sunday.  Also, the Panther LB corps has proven to be pretty solid against the pass, picking off multiple passes against the Bucs last year and already snaring one this year against New York. As such, the wideouts could see a significant number of targets down the field.

As for Williams, I'm not sure who out of Richard Marshall, Captain Munnerlyn, and Chris Gamble will be matched up on him Sunday, as Gamble is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, but Williams has a slight height advantage over Gamble and a significant edge over Marshall and Munnerlyn. He has the strength to get off jams and the speed to turn a hesitation into a big play.  In the red zone, Williams' size advantage/hands and the skill of the CAR LBs in the middle of the field could make Williams an attractive target in one-on-one matchup on the outside. 

In short, I expect to see opportunities for Mike Williams to make a big impact in this game.  Do you think he will?