Now that the Dallas Cowboys’ season is over, I will be taking a deeper look at the game film and advanced stats of one player and will attempt to project his future with the team. Today’s feature will be on rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams. At the beginning of the year, most thought Williams would be brought along slowly as the 3rd or 4th wideout on the team. To be truthful, Williams was completely lost at training camp. At the time, nobody was expecting much from Williams. He seemed to be years away from being an important player on this team.
But following another hamstring injury to Miles Austin, Williams was forced into action early, becoming the team’s number two wide receiver in week 3. He played hard in that game, but fumbled near the goal line on a potential score when the Cowboys were fighting to win the game. But after that week, Williams started to come on and had a impressive season for a rookie. Williams found himself playing second fiddle to Dez Bryant in the passing game and doing it fairly well. Number two wide receivers in Dallas have had some success over the last few years. Let’s take a look at how the Cowboys’ #2 wide receiver has fared the past few seasons:
As you can see, Williams put up a very comparable season to other #2 wide receivers in Dallas. Williams had the highest catch percentage of the five seasons and the highest yards per catch. This is encouraging news for the future of the Cowboys’ offense. With Miles Austin likely gone in 2014 and a slight Williams’ progression, this is my projection for him based on an uptick of targets:
59 catches for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns wouldn’t be a bad year for Williams, assuming he receives a sizable amount (54%) of Miles Austin’s targets. But would those stats be enough for the Cowboys to be content with Williams as the team’s number two wide receiver? There was a time in the NFL, that the answer clearly would have been yes. Now, it’s not as cut and dry. Look at one final chart of Williams’ 2013 season when it is compared to some of the other second receivers in the NFL:
As you can see, Williams actually fared quite well against number other two’s as a rookie and my 2014 projection of Williams would stack up well with the group. Williams will never be a high volume touchdown producer, simply due to the fact that he doesn’t receive many red zone targets there because of Dez Bryant. Williams will need to produce his scores from a ways out, something he has done for many years at Baylor and now in Dallas.
Williams has made a living out of creating big plays down the field and running after the catch. This should be no surprise to those of us who watched him at Baylor. Williams has the unique ability to track the ball in the air and he uses his body like a power forward in basketball to box out the defender for the ball. There may not be a better example of that than when he did it against Denver in the second half (Courtesy of GIFdSports)
But as the season wore on, teams began to figure out Williams and his tendencies. At Baylor, Williams did not run any semblance of an NFL route tree. Williams exclusively ran these routes in 2013 1) Comeback/Hook, 2) Fly/Deep In, 3) Slant and 4) Screen. He ran the comeback pattern more as the season went along, partly due to the fact that Romo was struggling with his back and arm strength. Defensive backs were sitting on that route, daring Williams to beat him deep. That happened at Washington and it resulted in a huge turning point in the game.
Ultimately, the question that the Cowboys must ask themselves is this: Is Terrance Williams good enough to be the second option on a pass-first offense? Jason Garrett’s actions have made it very clear that this team wants to throw the ball all over the field. But, will he be good enough to allow the passing offense to continue to carry this team? I don’t believe this will be the case. On almost any other team, Williams could suffice as a second receiver. But in this offense, I believe Williams should be the third receiver. He can have a very similar impact as what Laurent Robinson did in 2011 with the team. The Cowboys will survive if they are forced to stick with Terrance Williams as their second receiver and I have no doubts that he can improve and produce even more. But is he what Dallas needs to finally take their passing offense from above-average to elite? We will likely find out in 2014.