Matthew Willis, also known simply as Matt Willis (but who is noticing?) could get the second start of his career this Sunday as the Denver Broncos face the Minnesota Vikings. Willis will likely get the nod over the ailing Eddie Royal who was seen early in the week in a boot and is thought of as of Thursday at least as a game time decision at best.
We’re not here to talk about Royal’s toe though, this is about Willis or better yet a player deserving his chance. Rod Smith, Brandon Lloyd and now… Matt Willis. All receivers who sat idle on the Broncos’ sideline and/or practice squad for a significant amount of time before they were given the opportunity to play and start.
In the 2010 preseason (also Tim Tebow’s rookie season) Tebow and Willis created quite the rapport with Willis becoming Tebow’s favorite target and producing big numbers: 13 receptions for 263 yards and an average of 20.2 yards. In 2011 Willis did much less eight receptions for 110 yards and a 13.8 average. However, during thus far during the season he has 11 receptions, 154 yards, a 14 yard-per-catch average and one touchdown. [Editors note: Willis was shoved out of bounds in the end zone during the final drive in a non-call during the Broncos first game against the San Diego Chargers. Had that been called or had it not happened at all Willis likely would have caught a touchdown and likely won the game for Denver.]
Willis basically has one catch in each of the games that he has played in this season (he did not have a catch versus the Chargers, but had two against the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans (both Kyle Orton starts), he did not play in the second game against the Oakland Raiders). However, he has seen limited opportunities with even less opportunities now that Tebow has taken over and the Broncos are rushing on average three of every four plays.
This Sunday’s opponent is different though, the Vikings are rated 29th in the league in pass defense, Tebow will likely be passing early/often and Royal is likely to be out. The only other player more primed for a break-out game is Demaryius Thomas, but with many passes expected there will be plenty of opportunities for both.
Yet, the most damning and telling statistics comes down to a one. Willis has one touchdown in his career and one drop and one of those will change this Sunday.
Some Matt Willis tidbits after the jump:
- • A fourth-year wide receiver who has appeared in 12 games (1 start) during his NFL career with Denver (2008-10) and Baltimore (2007-08).
• Led the AFC and finished second in the NFL with 263 receiving yards on 13 receptions (20.2 avg., TD) during the 2010 preseason and went on to play in a career-high six regular-season games before being placed on injured reserve (foot) and missing the rest of the year.
• Finished the 2008 season on the Broncos’ practice squad and spent the first 16 weeks of the ‘09 campaign with that group before making the first start of his NFL career in Denver’s season finale vs. Kansas City (1/3/10).
• Began his rookie season on the Ravens’ practice squad in 2007 before seeing time in five of the club’s final seven games that year.
• Played two seasons of football at UCLA after competing on its track team and finished his Bruins career with 24 receptions for 248 yards (10.3 avg.) with three touchdowns in 21 games (3 starts).
• Joined the Broncos as a practice squad signee on Dec. 23, 2008.
• Entered the NFL with Baltimore as a college free agent on May 4, 2007.
[courtesy of the Denver Broncos].