When the Dallas Cowboys pulled the trigger on a mid-season trade to acquire Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams, we knew that this time would eventually come. Terrell Owens is out, and Roy Williams is in as the Cowboys top wide receiver. There is little question as to whether or not Williams can be a true number one threat in the NFL. It is clear that Williams can do the job, but he presents quite a different set of skills than Terrell Owens. In three seasons as a Cowboy Owens has averaged 79 receptions, 1,196 yards, and almost 13 touchdowns. Williams may have an opportunity to approach some of these numbers, but he will certainly have to do it in a fashion quite different than what we are used to seeing with Owens.
In all honesty, Terrell Owens has entered the initial phase of his athletic decline. We have seen a deterioration of foot speed and short area quickness, which has been a main contributor to Owens' recent struggles to beat the press. One athletic attribute that has yet to fail Owens is his unparalleled top-end speed. Owens may not accelerate to fifth gear as quickly as he once did, but he can still redline it with the best of them. Roy Williams just does not have that type of speed, and people close to the Cowboys have shared the same sentiments. I'd be doing Williams a disservice by comparing his speed to Michael Irvin's, but the two are similar. Irvin never had blazing speed, but still caught his fair share of deep balls. I expect the same from Williams (who is considerably faster than Irvin was), but the Cowboys should still be able to compromise a defense vertically with Miles Austin, whose speed is at least in the same league as Owens'.
Throughout his career Terrell Owens has made a living using his speed and his 6'3"/ 226 lb. frame to control the middle of the football field. Owens still is nearly unstoppable on slants, digs, drags, shallow posts, and curls simply because of his size and strength. Once he is off the line he is nearly impossible to re-route, and is still as dangerous as anyone in the league at catching the football and running out of the backside of your defensive formation. Roy Williams at 6'3"/211, does possess some of the same skills. Williams' strength is more than adequate, and his balance is fantastic. Williams is definitely equipped with the physical tools necessary to control the middle of the field, but simply was not called upon to do so with much frequency in Detroit. But with the best tight end in football, and Patrick Crayton now probably moving back into the slot full-time, the Cowboys should still be able to get plays down the middle.
One clear advantage that Roy Williams has over Terrell Owens is body control. Roy Williams can high-point the football with the best of them, Larry Fitzgerald included. Williams has demonstrated the ability to make leaping one-handed catches, tap his toes on his way out of bounds, and compete for the football in a way that Terrell Owens cannot even comprehend. Williams height, leaping ability (see long jump and high jump), balance, and tenacity in attacking the football should make him virtually unstoppable in the red zone. If the Cowboys choose to do so, a fade to Williams inside the ten should be nearly automatic, especially in a division full of shorter cornerbacks.
Williams has also exhibited better hands than T.O. in recent years. Terrell Owens has at times been a body catcher (much like Michael Irvin), some of which can be attributed to the number of balls he catches in traffic, where body catching is actually beneficial. Owens also has problems deciding whether or not to reverse his hands, therefore ending up with awkward hand positioning on balls above chest height. Roy Williams does have his lapses in focus, but for the most part catches the ball with his hands, out in front of his body. As they build more familiarity, Tony Romo may grow to trust him on third down more than he ever did Owens.
Williams has the tools, the quarterback, and the corresponding offensive weapons to be a top-notch receiver in this league, but it is comments like this that concern me:
In an ESPN interview (before Owens' release), Williams was asked about his relationship with Terrell Owens, and whether or not the two were workout partners. Williams had this to say:
"That's my boy, but we don't work out (together). We probably never will work out (together). He may work out a little too hard for me."
Maybe I'm reaching, but that's not what I want to hear from the new focal point of the Cowboys passing game. With people already questioning his work ethic, I would have liked to see him come up with a better answer for that question. I'm sorry but if this guy is in my locker room, I'm working out with him.
Still, Roy Williams is set up to have a big year in the absence of Terrell Owens. We will find out rather quickly whether or not all those picks and all of that money were worth it. I expect Roy to have a big year, just look for a few more catches, and a few less yards. Look for less 60-yard touchdowns, and more 11-yard completions on 3rd and 9. Lights, camera, action Roy. I hope you are ready for your close up.