Terrance Williams was an outstanding collegiate player during his career at Baylor University. He is now parlaying his play at the college ranks into becoming an outstanding receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
Just eight games into his rookie season, Williams has compiled 26 catches, 444 yards and four touchdowns. He has had his bad moments, such as a critical fumble in the San Diego Chargers game and running an incorrect route that led to a Ryan Mundy interception on opening night against the New York Giants. He's also dropped a few passes.
But the Cowboys drafted him in the third round for a reason, and that was to make plays for this franchise.
For a team that already had Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris and an unproven Cole Beasley in its stable of receivers, the thought of drafting one more wideout was viewed as just another Jerry Jones moment of delusion.
However, Williams has suddenly become not only a vital cog in this offense, but the perfect complement for Bryant for the immediate and long-term future of this franchise. Williams is 6'2", 200 pounds with a nice skill set of speed, solid route-running, good balance and a natural feel for the game.
Williams made his first significant contributions against San Diego with seven receptions for 71 yards despite that fumble at the goal line that cost Dallas points. He followed that up with a four-catch, 151-yard performance against the Denver Broncos that included an 82-yard touchdown grab.
Williams now has four consecutive games with a touchdown reception, and more importantly, he's planted his flag on this offense, made Miles Austin irrelevant and is developing valuable chemistry with Tony Romo.
For the Cowboys to have a player like Williams as a threat opposite Bryant is such a valuable asset to this team. Williams is explosive, as evidenced by his 60-yard catch-and-run in the Week 8 loss to the Detroit Lions, and you can see the traits that made him such a dominant player at Baylor.
For Williams, it all starts at the line of scrimmage and his knack for creating immediate separation from the defensive back covering him. He plays well against press coverage, which is the most difficult part of the transition for a receiver to the pro game. And he plays with the kind of body control that allows him to track and pluck the ball out of the air.
In the Philadelphia Eagles game in Week 7, he pulled in a nine-yard touchdown on a slant route in the red zone to seal the victory. But if you go back and watch the tape of that TD, you see a play more detailed than just a receiver running a simple slant pattern.
Williams first was able to get his defender going toward the sideline, and by the time the defender opened up his hips to catch up to the slant route, his big 6'2" frame was square to the quarterback, completely shielding the defensive back from breaking up the pass. Great route, great execution and a crucial play in the game.
When thinking of the characteristics of a great receiver, it's easy to emphasize speed, agility and great hands, but it comes down to balance. Williams will only continue to get better over time; he has a high ceiling and he is only scratching the surface of what he can bring to this offense.
As Austin returns to this lineup, it will be interesting to see if Williams lines up in the slot in three-receiver sets or if he continues to play more outside. But if Williams can vertically challenge opposing defenses, it will open things up even more for this team.
Heading into the second half of this season, the Cowboys need to clean things up and make adjustments in all phases of the game. Offensively, the Cowboys have the weapons to really unleash some fury, and that's just what it might take to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Williams will not only be a significant part of Dallas' aerial attack; he might see even more opportunities as a result of the attention drawn by Bryant. Or maybe, just maybe, the opposite will hold true, and Bryant might benefit from the next big thing on the Cowboys.
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