Williams emerging as a bigger contributor

OWINGS MILLS – Demetrius Williams timed his leap perfectly, muscling his frame in between two Chicago Bears defensive backs even while being interfered with blatantly. And the Baltimore Ravens' wide receiver rose in the air, boxing the defenders out like a basketball player going up for a rebound to haul in an acrobatic touchdown pass Sunday during a 31-7 rout at M&T Bank Stadium.

For Williams, it was an encouraging moment after a season defined by inactivity after being leapfrogged on the depth chart for the third receiver job by Kelley Washington during training camp.

For the Ravens, it was a sign that they could count on Williams in the absence of Washington and starter Mark Clayton due to injuries.

"He's remade himself a little bit as a player," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's become bigger and stronger, from way back when we first got here, he had a long way to go physically.

He's gotten in the weight room, he's stacked some muscle mass on himself and he's a bigger, strong kind of guy. Then, he had the injury setback.

"I think he's worked through that. He's still learning the offense. He'll tell you there were times he lined up incorrectly in this game and those are things he's got to continue to work on, be more precise, understanding every part of the offense and yet he goes up and makes plays."

Williams' 32-yard touchdown catch was described by quarterback Joe Flacco, who launched a high spiral with faith that the tall receiver would bring it down, as "that ridiculous catch in the end zone."

Derided in the past for not being physical enough, Williams, who has gained some significant bulk in his upper body and is now listed at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, seemed intent on doing whatever he had to do catch the football.

"I don't know what they did, it was more about I saw the ball in the air," Williams said. "I was determined to come down with the ball."

And it marked a strong trend for Williams as he caught six passes for 116 yards over the past two games against NFC North squads.

"When you see guys making plays like that, it gives you all the trust in the world," Flacco said. "It makes me want to give them more plays, give them more chances. He did a great job of going up for the ball, and I had trust that he was going to get it for me."

Williams was inactive for three games this season and was rarely targeted during the spot duty previously.

"Really, his lack of playing time was a tribute to how well Mark Clayton was playing at times and Kelley Washington," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "Now they're both down and he stepped up. He's really bought into what we're doing. He's been playing at a pretty high level at practice.

"Unfortunately for him, the other guys were playing well, too. We kept telling him to stay ready, and he stayed ready. I think a lot of credit goes to Demetrius."

Harbaugh has noticed a huge difference in how Williams approaches every encounter downfield. "The biggest thing I would say is he's stronger to the ball now than he's ever been, since we got here," Harbaugh said. "That's what a big, tall receiver needs to be for you."

Heading into the Ravens' 48-3 win over the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, the former fourth-round draft pick from Oregon had caught just one pass for 17 yards.

And that reception was back in October against the Minnesota Vikings.

Now, he's emerging as a legitimate contributor with four catches for 71 yards and that third-quarter score against the Bears.

"It makes me feel good," Williams said. "Whenever you can help out the team and help the team win, it's definitely going to make you feel good.

"You've got to stay ready at all times. Things are going good. There are times you might be nicked and bruised, but I had to stay ready."

Retained last offseason as a restricted free agent, Williams is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

It's unclear if the Ravens will make him an offer or if he'll be moving on to another NFL city.

"Of course, I want to have that option," he said. "Right now, I'm not focusing on that. I'm focused on our season

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